The Public Water Supply Protection Value of Forests: A Watershed-Scale Ecosystem Services Analysis Based upon Total Organic Carbon


We developed a cost-based methodology to assess the value of forested watersheds to improve water quality in public water supplies. The developed methodology is applicable to other source watersheds to determine ecosystem services for water quality. We assess the value of forest land for source water mitigation of total organic carbon (TOC) through the use of linked watershed and reservoir simulation models and cost-based valuation economics. Watershed modeling results indicated that expected urbanization will increase TOC loads to Converse Reservoir (Mobile, AL). Reservoir model results indicated that future median TOC concentrations increased by 1.1 mg·L-1 between 1992 and 2020 at the source water intake. Depending upon dynamic reservoir TOC concentrations, additional drinking water treatment with powdered activated carbon (PAC) often is necessary between May and October to comply with Safe Drinking Water Act regulations. The cost for additional treatment was calculated using minimum and maximum volume treated with simulated TOC concentrations at the source water intake. Daily simulated TOC concentrations for the base scenario using 1992 land cover (3% urban) were compared with simulated TOC concentrations following forest to urban land conversion predicted in the watershed by 2020 (22% urban). The daily cost for additional drinking water treatment with PAC was calculated if simulated TOC concentrations exceeded 2.7 mg·L-1. The mean increase in daily treatment costs between base and future scenarios ranged from $91 to $95 per km2 per day for forest land water purification ecosystem services.

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Elias, E. , Laband, D. , Dougherty, M. , Lockaby, G. , Srivastava, P. and Rodriguez, H. (2014) The Public Water Supply Protection Value of Forests: A Watershed-Scale Ecosystem Services Analysis Based upon Total Organic Carbon. Open Journal of Ecology, 4, 517-531. doi: 10.4236/oje.2014.49042.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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