Economic modeling of drinking water costs associated with aquatic biodiversity and water quality

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LINGLEY, BENJAMIN C. Economic Modeling of Drinking Water Costs Associated With Aquatic Biodiversity and Water Quality Clean surface water has far-reaching implications on human life as well as plant and aquatic species. Decreased water quality can diminish aquatic biodiversity as indicated by benthic macroinvertebrates which in turn affect the entire aquatic food web. Decreases in surface water quality generally result in a loss of desirable game and other aquatic species. There is a strong relationship between forest cover in a watershed and the corresponding water quality. Forests that are uphill in a watershed filter harmful contaminants as water flows through fibrous roots and significantly reduces soil erosion and sediment loading into water bodies as roots help hold soil in place. The measure of water quality in surface waters such as rivers, streams, lakes and reservoirs is often indicated by turbidity, which can be a direct result of sediments in water. This study investigates how surface water quality may affect treatment costs at drinking water treatment plants. Previous studies have indicated a positive relationship between forest cover in a watershed and treatment costs via decreased levels of turbidity and total organic carbon. The necessary data will be collected from various GIS databases including NatureServe, USGS GAP and other NLCD. A survey was developed which aims to gather data about treatment methods and chemical usage. By combining the positive relationship between a forested watershed, water quality, aquatic biodiversity and drinking water treatment costs, stakeholder interest can be maximized to achieve maximum return on conservation efforts.