«The Economic and Social Aspects of Biodiversity Benefits and Costs of Biodiversity in Ireland REPORT PREPARED BY: CRAIG BULLOCK, OPTIMIZE CONSULTANTS ...»
An indication of the external cost of pollution is available from the net amounts that local authorities anticipate having to invest in water quality management in excess of cost recovery.
Expenditure has increased by 40 million per year since 1999. Indeed, the current NDP proposes expenditure of 4.75 billion between 2007 and 2013. Under the previous NDP, a total of 3.7 billion was ear-marked for water and waste water treatment. Of this, around 500 million was spent on capital investment in the Rural Water Programme. Under the Rural Water Programme, most expenditure has been on water supply rather than sewerage (in principle, development levies recover the cost of sewerage for new housing schemes). In 2006, 120 million was spent on the supply of rural drinking water, while sewerage accounted for only 10m. Of expenditure on public schemes, the situation is reversed with only around one fifth being spent on supply. Prior to the previous NDP and launch of the Water Services Investment Programme, much rural treatment was grossly inadequate. However, at least as much has needed to be spent on distribution as on a new treatment plant.
In terms of the ecosystem services, spending on drinking water purification is relevant in that much of this treatment is necessary because ecosystem services have been overwhelmed. The annual cost of nitrate removal in the UK has been estimated at between £24 million and £38 million per year (Redman, 1996, Cobb et al, 1999). No such removal occurs in Ireland, but a sizeable 36% of rural Group Water Schemes are contaminated by e-coli (EPA, 2005).Treatment costs are low at about 1-2 cent per 1000 litres, or roughly 15% of total operating costs (WRRC 2001). In Ireland, operating costs have been estimated at 0.5/m3 (DKN et al. 2004). Some treatment will always be necessary even where the ecosystem is healthy. However, increasing levels of pollution (corresponding with ecosystem damage) imply a rising marginal cost as simple chlorination is replaced successively by sand filtration, active carbon or ozone treatment. On top of this cost, is the substantial amount that must be spent on new plant. As with waste water treatment, considerable recent investment has had to be made in water supplies to close this long-standing infrastructure deficit.
Alternatively, it is possible to examine the amounts that are likely to be spent under the Water Framework Directive (WFD) to ensure that most rivers achieve the required Good Ecological Status by 2015. These amounts include the above expenditure on waste water treatment plus river basin management. As well as being a cost, these substantial sums can also be regarded as reflecting the value that the public are presumed to place on clean water, i.e. purity that can be maintained by the ecosystem itself. No estimates of the additional amounts that will need to be spent under the WFD on catchment management are yet available aside from the modest amounts ( 16 million per annum) being spent on pilot schemes. An illustration of the ultimate costs can be taken from the USA where New York State has recently purchased an up-stream watershed area for $1.5 billion having found that catchment management is more cost-effective than the $3-8 billion that would need to be spent on waste water treatment (Ramsar Bureau, 2006).
A functioning ecosystem supports recreation and amenity. Whereas drinking water passes through a treatment plant, recreation requires a clean water environment to which the main threats are eutrophication and acidification. A recent report by the Marine Institute (2003) estimates that water-related recreation accounted for 45% of domestic tourist expenditure, comprising boating ( 17m), freshwater angling ( 33m) and other fresh water-based leisure (around 20m). Based on Marine Institute figures for 1999, the approximate annual spend by overseas tourists in these activities today would add a further 65 million, although this may be an under-estimate. A portion of this expenditure becomes capitalised in a realised value of recreational assets. For example, fishing rights along the Rivers Errif or Moy are valued at between 4-8,000 per salmon, equivalent to 500,000 per kilometre of riverbank. Such high values represent a scarcity rent which would not be realised if other rivers were rehabilitated, but which does give an indication of the economic case for protecting water quality. Indeed, the Marine Institute report indicates a willingness of many people to engage in more water-based recreation should better facilities be provided in the future.
Table 8.1 in the chapter on Human Welfare provides an indication of the benefits to recreation of improving environmental water quality based on transfer valuations from UK studies.
Further information on angling benefits is provided in the Annex to this chapter. The social benefits are substantial. Large numbers of people participate in these activities. For example, around 190,000 nationals (29,000 taking an overnight trip) are involved in water-based activities. A further 97,000 overseas visitors are also involved in angling (Marine Institute, 1996, 2003). The social value is not confined to these water recreation interest groups, but is multiplied substantially by the very large numbers of people who benefit from countryside recreation and amenity. Studies consistently show the attractiveness of water and the importance that people attach to rivers, lakes and canals as valued heritage (Campbell et al, 2006; Heritage Council, 2007). These values are presented in the chapter on Human Welfare.
Source: Guidance Part 1,Table 2.1. Environmental Agency for England and Wales (2004) 6.5 T H R E AT S Aquatic ecosystems are under constant threat. As well as the most sensitive species such as the pearl mussel, salmon populations have collapsed in many rivers and crayfish have been eliminated from the Liffey and Boyne by sewerage (Persic, 2006). Pressures on water for both abstraction and waste assimilation have increased in line with economic growth. Although the latest figures record only a slight reduction in quality, the EPA admits that inadequate funding of effluent treatment presents a potential crisis Much investment has already been made in municipal sewerage treatment, but rapid rural development is being permitted without the assurance of future waste water treatment. Scattered housing development in the countryside is subject to high sewerage standards in principle, but there is the serious risk that maintenance of these systems will be inadequate. Agricultural pollution could decline due to new policy incentives for improved nutrient management, but elevated levels of phosphate could persist in soils and the ecosystem for many decades. There is a precarious future for many water species and especially for those such as the pearl mussel, lamprey or arctic char, which depend on the highest quality water.
Non-native species represent a further threat to the functioning of the ecosystem. For instance, Lagorasiphon is presenting a serious threat to angling given its capacity to choke off sunlight.
Salmon fisheries in Lough Corrib and elsewhere are currently under significant threat from the proliferation of this exotic weed. Elsewhere, rivers and lakes are threatened by an explosion in numbers of zebra mussel, another alien species. The full impact of the mussel’s dramatic population growth is still unknown. Certainly, it can interfere with abstraction and boating. While it can, at first, have a positive impact on water quality, it does so by cleaning lakes of the very nutrients on which other organisms survive. In Lake Michigan, numbers of zebra mussel are so great that their rotting remains eliminate oxygen leading to a proliferation of toxic species that tolerate low-oxygen environments.
Th e Pollan – a true Irish fish The pollan (Coregonus autumnalis) is the only member of the whitefish family found in Ireland, and is found nowhere else in Europe. The species is limited in its current distribution to four large lakes, Lough Neagh and Lower Lough Erne in Ulster, and Lough Ree and Lough Derg, on the Shannon. Pollan were once present and probably abundant in other Irish lakes. The Irish pollan is now known to be distinct from the other European coregonids. It is highly endangered in Ireland, having been reduced by ecosystem degradation due to pollution, habitat loss, invasive species, climate change and commercial fishing (Foy et al., 2003, Harrod et al., 2002, Maitland & Campbell, 1993, and Rosell, 1994).
Lough Neagh has the only remaining abundant population of pollan and still supports a small scale commercial fishery. Although there are no firm data on trends in abundance, catches are known to be much reduced from former levels. The Shannon lakes’ populations of pollan are down to 5% to 9% of former levels, or just 1% in terms of former biomass. Lough Derg once supported a commercial pollan fishery of local cultural and economic significance, with catches of pollan amounting to “hundreds per night” during the 1960s. However, the population has declined drastically. Gill-net surveys in the late 1990s captured no pollan in Lough Derg and only 15 specimens in a survey of Lough Ree (Griffiths et al., 1997). Recent annual catches number 3 or 4 specimens per year (Rosell et al, 2004). The Lower Lough Erne population of pollan is severely reduced, a major decline having occurred sometime between 1960 and 1990.
The pollan is now listed on Annex V of the EU Habitats Directive (92/43/EEC) and in the Irish Red Data Book as Endangered. An all-Ireland Species Action Plan for the pollan has been prepared (2005). A failure to reverse the decline in this species would not only signal the loss of a unique aspect of Ireland’s natural heritage, but also the loss of an economically and culturally valuable natural resource.
6.6 CO S T O F P R OT E C T I ON Below a certain threshold, the restoration of particular rivers or wetlands can sometimes be achieved through consensus amongst former polluters. However, where ecosystem damage has already occurred, the use of biomanipulation to restore ecosystems can cost far more than ex-ante protection.7 For example, the restoration of water quality in the Florida Everglades is put at $685 million. In Ireland, specific projects have been undertaken as three year pilots for the WFD. These include the Three Rivers Project in Leinster ( 8.3m) and the Lough Derg and Lough Ree Catchment Monitoring and Management Project ( 3m), together with its successor for the Shannon ( 8.5m) (www.wfd.ie). These amounts are a fraction of what is ultimately likely to be spent enforcing the WFD. Indeed, 47 million was allocated to the WFD in the Water Services Pers comm. M. McGarrigle of the EPA regarding experience of ecosystem restoration in the Norfolk Broads.
Investment Programme between 2005-07. The risk of further cryptosporidium outbreaks like that recently experienced by Galway City could yet lead to more pro-active catchment management particularly in relation to diffuse pollution from agriculture and domestic septic tanks. The investment can be seen as the value that society places on a functioning aquatic ecosystem and the services it provides. As of yet, no statements are available on the cost of implementation (Heritage Council, 2006).
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