Estimating the Benefits of Environmental Enhancement: A Case Study of the River Darent
The provision of leisure facilities is usually assessed on their value to users. This paper outlines the use of contingent valuation methods in an ex ante appraisal of the costs and benefits of enhancing river flow for recreational purposes in a low flow river. A number of rivers in England and Wales experience low flows, especially during summer months, due to over abstraction of water, creating a trade-off between leisure uses and the demands of water consumers. The sequential benefits of enhanced flows are estimated from those associated with abstraction up to licensed limits: to river flow at 70% of licensed abstraction levels; to flow levels required for an environmentally acceptable flow regime, which would permit leisure activities such as fishing, enhanced scenic walking and wildlife encounters. These benefits are compared to the costs which would be incurred to achieve these enhanced flow regimes. The study illustrates the importance of including non-user benefits in benefit-cost analysis, if leisure provision is to be provided in certain areas.
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