"In the areas we studied in Bureau County with small wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs), it was much cheaper to do pollution control by installing just a few wetlands than it was to have the WWTPs do the upgrades that would be necessary to achieve the same thing," said U of I environmental economist Amy Ando.
Bureau County was selected for the simulation because it is an area that has waterways with heavy nitrogen and phosphorus pollution, and it is a rural area of the state but with some population density and a couple of WWTPs.
"In some ways, it's a poster child for an environment where a program like this could work," Ando said. "There is enough farmland to put in some wetlands, but there are also enough people contributing to the WWTPs that are generating nutrients—so there are parties on both sides that could trade with each other."
The study analyzed the amount of land needed to reduce nitrogen pollution, data on the costs of actual wetland restorations, and other factors such as the opportunity costs to the landowner from no longer farming the new wetland area.
"Wastewater treatment plants can already remove nitrogen, but their current technology is only capable of removing them up to a point," Ando said. "If they wanted to do more nitrogen removal, they would have to make upgrades. The cost of phosphorus removal isn't high, but for nitrogen, the upgrades are pretty expensive."
Ando also explained that, depending on how environmental permit markets are set up, if an area is set aside as a wetland, the landowner could qualify for several incentive programs through pollution trading markets, even if the original purpose of the wetland conversion was only to reduce nitrogen.
"This is a big issue in the design of markets for ecosystem services," Ando said. "A wetland does a lot of things. It will filter out nutrients, but it also creates habitat for waterfowl, and it might sequester carbon. The cost of installing a wetland is large enough that in some cases no single payment might be enough to convince a farmer to do it, but if they get paid for the full value to society of all three benefits, then they might be willing to do it.
"There's an almost violent debate among scholars and environmental groups and people who are trying to get these markets into place about whether farmers should be able to stack payments. We were trying to be agnostic and just ask the question, what effects would stacking have on market outcomes?" she said.
Ando said that, under some circumstances, if multiple payments for the same action are not allowed, it can result in inefficiently low levels of conservation activity on parcels of land that generate nutrient removal and other benefits such as wildlife habitat.
However, some farmers may be willing to convert farmland to wetland on the strength of just one payment.
"Ideally we want to pay farmers to create a wetland that they would not have done anyway," Ando said. "But in some cases, they might not need the extra incentive and would have been happy to do it for the nitrogen payment alone. In our study area, we found that allowing multiple payments may or may not make society as a whole better off, depending on the details of the policy situation."
When questioned about the fairness of stacking credits, Ando said "Fair is a different question than efficient and from cost-effectiveness overall. If multiple payments for a single wetland don't increase the provision of ecosystem services relative to single payments, then it's not cost-effective. Some of that money could be used to pay a different landowner and get more services overall. So there might be a trade-off between what seems fair and just and what yields the greatest environmental benefit to society for a fixed amount of money available for payments," she said.
Water Quality Trading with Lumpy Investments, Credit Stacking, and Ancillary Benefits was published in a recent issue of the Journal of the American Water Resources Association. Additional authors are Adam H. Lentz and Nicholas Brozoviæ.
The research was funded in part by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Institute of Food and Agriculture.
Debra Levey Larson | Source: EurekAlert!
Further information: www.illinois.edu
More articles from Agricultural and Forestry Science:
Sustainable recultivation of abandoned agricultural land in Russia, Ukraine and Belarus
04.12.2013 | Leibniz-Institut für Agrarentwicklung in Mittel- und Osteuropa
Which genes cause deafness in dogs?
04.12.2013 | Stiftung Tierärztliche Hochschule Hannover
In power electronics systems bonded connections create the central electrical connections between adjoining surfaces.
The quality of these bonded connections is one of the main factors that determines the reliability and availability of drive systems in electric vehicles, and hence constitutes a major design challenge for German auto manufacturers aiming to electrify their vehicles.
Now the partners participating in the RoBE (Robust Bonds in ...
International team of scientists develops new feedback method for optimizing the laser pulse shapes used in the control of chemical reactions
In many ways, traditional chemical synthesis is similar to cooking. To alter the final product, you can change the ingredients or their ratio, change the method of mixing ingredients, or change the temperature or pressure of the environment of the ingredients.
Like an accomplished chef, chemists have become very skilled ...
A genetic defect protects mice from infection with influenza viruses
A new study published in the scientific journal PLOS Pathogens points out that mice lacking a protein called Tmprss2 are no longer affected by certain flu viruses.
The discovery was made by researchers from the Helmholtz Centre for Infection Research (HZI) in Braunschweig in collaboration with colleagues from Göttingen and ...
The Light: Global study gets underway with online user survey
Light has a fundamental impact on our sense of well-being and performance. In cooperation with Zumtobel, a supplier of lighting solutions, Fraunhofer IAO has launched a global user survey of lighting quality in offices. The objective is to identify the best lighting conditions for a variety of spaces and lighting ...
Quantum entanglement, a perplexing phenomenon of quantum mechanics that Albert Einstein once referred to as “spooky action at a distance,” could be even spookier than Einstein perceived.
Physicists at the University of Washington and Stony Brook University in New York believe the phenomenon might be intrinsically linked with wormholes, hypothetical features of space-time that in popular science fiction can provide a much-faster-than-light shortcut from one part of the universe to another.
But here’s the catch: One couldn’t actually ...
09.12.2013 | Materials Sciences
09.12.2013 | Life Sciences
09.12.2013 | Studies and Analyses
05.12.2013 | Event News
04.12.2013 | Event News
12.11.2013 | Event News