Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Economic returns of groundwater management sustaining an ecosystem service of dust suppression by alkali meadow in Owens Valley, California

This paper addresses the economic tradeoff between pumping groundwater and maintaining a native plant community that provides an ecosystem service of dust suppression. A dynamic ecological economic simulation model was created to assess net benefits of production (i.e., economic rent) from groundwater management while requiring a producer to maintain or restore native groundwater dependent vegetation in a well-field in Owens Valley, California. Historic groundwater withdrawal during dry conditions followed by recharge during wet conditions has reduced vegetation cover, soil stability and contributed to the drying of springs and seeps. Findings indicate adaptive management that pumps less water, but high volumes in wet years and low volumes in dry years, generates greater economic rent while supplying water, sustaining alkali meadow and maintaining dust suppression. Adaptive management generates economic rent of $82.6 million (in 2011 $) compared to status quo management of $30.5 million over 50 years pumping less annual groundwater than status quo at respective levels of 73% (6830 acre-ft; baseline conditions) and 56% (4952 acre-ft; climate change scenario). Under a climate change scenario and a 2.0 m root-zone or less, it would be cost effective to cease groundwater pumping rather than incur substantial restoration costs of the native plant community.

by John J. Gutrich 1 , Keith Gigliello 1, Kimberly Vest Gardner 2, and Andrew J. Elmore 2
1. Environmental Science & Policy Program, Southern Oregon University, 1250 Siskiyou Boulevard, Taylor Hall 113, Ashland, OR 97520, USA.
2. University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science, Appalachian Laboratory, Frostburg, MD, USA
Ecological Economics via Elsevier Science Direct
Volume 121, January 2016, Pages 1–11; Available online 25 November 2015
Keywords: Groundwater management; Temporal loss of ecosystem service; Particulate matter; Alkali meadow; Restoration costs; Air quality

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