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.

Share and Cite:

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.


[1] Blaine J.G., Sweeney B.W. and Arscott D.B. (2006) Enhanced Source-Water Monitoring for New York City: Historical Framework, Political Context, and Project Design. Journal of the North American Benthological Society, 25, 851866.[0851:ESMFNY]2.0.CO
[2] Singer, P.C. and Chang, S.P. (1989) Correlations between Trihalomethanes and Total Organic Halides Formed during Water Treatment. Journal of the American Water Works Association, 81, 61-65.
[3] USEPA (2005) Occurrence Assessment for the Final Stage 2 Disinfectants and Disinfection Byproducts Rule. EPA 815-R-05-011.
[4] USEPA (2012) Stage 2 DBP Rule: Basic Information.
[5] American Cancer Society (ACS) (2010) Bladder Cancer Overview.
[6] Young, R.A. (2005) Determining the Economic Value of Water: Concepts and Methods. Resources for the Future, Washington DC.
[7] TEEB (2010) The Economics of Ecosystems and Biodiversity: Mainstreaming the Economics of Nature: A Synthesis of the Approach, Conclusions and Recommendations of TEEB.
[8] National Research Council (2005) Valuing Ecosystem Services: Toward Better Environmental Decision-Making. National Academies Press, Washington DC.
[9] Farber, S., Costanza, R., Childers, D.L., Erickson, J., Gross, K., Grove, M., Hopkinson, C.S., Kahn, J., Pincetl, S., Troy, A., Warren, P. and Wilson, M. (2006) Linking Ecology and Economics for Ecosystem Management. BioScience, 56, 121-133.[0121:LEAEFE]2.0.CO
[10] Plummer, M. (2009) Assessing Benefit Transfer for the Valuation of Ecosystem Services. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 7, 38-45.
[11] Randhir T.O., O’Connor, R., Penner, P.R. and Goodwin, D.W. (2001) A Watershed-Based Land Prioritization Model for Water Supply Protection. Forest Ecology and Management, 143, 47-56.
[12] Brooks, K., Gregersen, H., Berglund, E. and Tagaa, M. (1982) Economic Evaluation of Watershed Projects: An Overview Methodology and Application. Water Resources Bulletin, 18, 245-250.
[13] Shuhuai, D., Zhihui, G., Gregerson, H., Brooks, K. and Ffolliott, P. (2001) Protecting Beijing’s Municipal Water Supply through Watershed Management: An Economic Assessment. Journal of the American Water Resources Association, 37, 585-595.
[14] Wilson, M.A. and Carpenter, C.R. (1999) Economic Valuation of Freshwater Ecosystem Services in the US: 1971-1997. Ecological Applications, 9, 772-783.
[15] Boyle, K.J., Lawson, S.R. and Michael, H.J. (1998) Lakefront Property Owners’ Economic Demand for Water Clarity in Maine Lakes. Maine Agricultural Experiment Station, Orono.
[16] Morgan, C. and Owens, N. (2001) Benefits of Water Quality Policies: The Chesapeake Bay. Ecological Economics, 39, 271-284.
[17] Krupnick, A. (1988) Reducing Bay Nutrients: An Economic Perspective. Maryland Law Review, 47, 453-480.
[18] Bockstael, N.E., McConnell, K.E. and Strand, I.E. (1989) Measuring the Benefits of Improvements in Water Quality: The Chesapeake Bay. Marine Resource Economics, 6, 1-18.
[19] Krieger, D.J. (2001) The Economic Value of Forest Ecosystem Services: A Review. The Wilderness Society, Washington DC.
[20] Sutherland, R.J. and Walsh, R.G. (1985) The Effect of Distance on the Preservation Value of Water Quality. Land Economics, 61, 281-291.
[21] Elsin, Y.K., Kramer, R.A. and Jenkins, W.A. (2010) Valuing Drinking Water Provision as an Ecosystem Service in the Neuse River Basin. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 136, 474-482.
[22] Postel, S.L. and Thompson, B.H. (2005) Watershed Protection: Capturing the Benefits of Nature’s Water Supply Services. Natural Resources Forum, 29, 98-108.
[23] Ernst, C. (2004) Protecting the Source: Land Conservation and the Future of America’s Drinking Water. Trust for Public Land, Washington DC.
[24] Pearce, D.W. (2001) The Economic Value of Forest Ecosystems. Ecosystem Health, 7, 284-296.
[25] Costanza, R., Wilson, M., Troy, A., Voinov, A., Liu, A. and D’Agostina, J. (2006) The Value of New Jersey’s Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital. Gund Institute for Ecological Economics. Robinson School of Environment and Natural Resources. University of Vermont, Burlington. 05405.
[26] Costanza, R., d’Arge, R., de Groot, R., Farber, S., Grasso, M., Hannon, B., Limburg, K., Naeem, S., O’Neill, R.V., Paruelo, J., Raskin, R.G., Sutton, P. and van den Belt, M. (1997) The Value of the World’s Ecosystem Services and Natural Capital. Nature, 387, 253-560.
[27] Nunez, D., Nahuelhual, L. and Oyarzun, C. (2006) Forests and Water: The Value of Native Temperate Forests in Supplying Water for Human Consumption. Ecological Economics, 58, 606-616.
[28] Turner, M.G., Odum, E.P., Costanza, R. and Springer, T.M. (1988) Market and Non-Market Value of the Georgia Landscape. Environmental Management, 12, 209-217.
[29] Boyer, T. and Polasky, S. (2004) Valuing Urban Wetlands: A Review of Non-Market Valuation Studies. Wetlands, 24, 744-755.[0744:VUWARO]2.0.CO;2
[30] Daily, G., Polasky, S., Goldstein, J., Kareiva, P.M., Mooney, H.A., Pejchar, L., Ricketts, T.H., Salzman, J. and Shallenberger, R. (2009) Ecosystem Services in Decision-Making: Time to Deliver. Frontiers in Ecology and the Environment, 7, 21-28.
[31] USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (2007) National Engineering Handbook Part 630. Hydrologic Soil Groups-Chapter 7, Washington DC.
[32] Carlson, C.S. and Archfield, S.A. (2009) Hydrogeologic Conditions and a Firm-Yield Assessment for J.B. Converse Lake, Mobile County, Alabama, 1991-2006. US Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2008-5005, 2nd Edition, 21 p.
[33] Journey, C.A., Psinakis, W.L. and Atkins, J.B. (1995) Streamflow and Water Quality and Bottom Material Analyses of the J.B. Converse Lake Basin, Mobile County, Alabama, 1990-1992. US Geological Survey, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, 95-4106.
[34] ADEM (1996) ADEM Reservoir Water Quality Monitoring Program Report (1990-1995). Alabama Department of Environmental Management, Ecological Studies Section, Field Operations Division, Montgomery.
[35] Bayne, D.R., Seesock, W.C. and Reutebuch, E. (1998) Limnological Study of Big Creek Lake. Department of Fisheries and Allied Aquacultures, Auburn University, Auburn.
[36] Journey, C.A. and Gill, A.C. (2001) Assessment of Water-Quality Conditions in the J.B. Converse Lake Watershed, Mobile County, Alabama, 1990-98. US Geological Survey, Montgomery, Alabama, 01-4225.
[37] ADEM (2003) Surface Water Quality Screening Assessment of the Escatawpa River, Mobile Bay, and Upper and Lower Tombigbee River Basins-2001. Alabama Department of Environmental Management Aquatic Assessment Unit, Environmental Indicators Section, Montgomery, Alabama.
[38] Gill, A.C., McPherson, A.K. and Moreland, R.S. (2005) Water Quality and Simulated Effects of Urban Land-Use Change in J.B. Converse Lake Watershed, Mobile County, Alabama, 1990-2003. US Geological Survey, Montgomery, Alabama, 2005-5171.
[39] Mobile Metropolitan Planning Organization (2005) 2030 Long Range Transportation Plan. South Alabama Regional Planning Commission, Mobile, Alabama, 123.
[40] Alabama Department of Transportation (ALDOT) (2010) Making Highway 98 Safer for South Alabama’s Families.
[41] Wear, D.N. and Greis, J.G. (2002) Southern Forest Resource Assessment. Gen. Tech. Rep. SRS-53. US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Southern Research Station, Ashville, 635 p.
[42] Stein, S.M., McRoberts, R.E., Alig, R.J., Nelson, M.D., Theobald, D.M., Eley, M., Dechter, M. and Carr, M. (2005) Forests on the Edge: Housing Development on America’s Private Forests. PNW-GTR-636, US Department of Agriculture, Forest Service, Pacific Northwest Research Station, Portland.
[43] USEPA (2010) Loading Simulation Program in C++.
[44] Stein, S.M., McRoberts, R.E., Nelson, M.D., Theobald, D.M., Eley, M. and Dechter, M. (2006) Forests on the Edge: A GIS-Based Approach to Projecting Housing Development on Private Forests. USDA Forest Service Proceedings RMRS, Denver, 20-24 September 2006, 736-743.
[45] Runkel, R.L., Crawford, C.G. and Cohn, T.A. (2004) Load Estimator (LOADEST): A FORTRAN Program for Estimating Constituent Loads in Streams and Rivers. USGS Techniques and Methods Book 4, Chapter A5, USGS, Reston, 69 p.
[46] Elias, E.H., Dougherty, M., Srivastava, P. and Laband, D. (2011) The Impact of Forest to Urban Land Conversion on Streamflow, Total Nitrogen, Total Phosphorus, and Total Organic Carbon Inputs to the Converse Reservoir, Southern Alabama, USA. Urban Ecosystems, 14, 79-107.
[47] Hamrick, J.M. (1992) A Three-Dimensional Environmental Fluid Dynamcis Computer Code: Theoretical and Computational Aspects. The College of William and Mary, Virginia Institute of Marine Science, Gloucester Point, Special Report 317.
[48] Hamrick, JM. (1994) Linking Hydrodynamic and Biogeochemical Transport Models for Estuarine and Coastal Waters. Estuarine and Coastal Modeling. Proceedings of the 3rd International Conference, American Society of Civil Engineers, New York, 591-608.
[49] Wool, T.A., Davie, S.R. and Rodriguez, H.N. (2003) Development of Three-Dimensional Hydrodynamic and Water Quality Models to Support TMDL Decision Process for the Neuse River Estuary, North Carolina. Journal of Water Resources Planning and Management, 129, 295-306.
[50] Moustafa, M.Z. and Hamrick, J.M. (2000) Calibration of the Wetland Hydrodynamic Model to the Everglades Nutrient Removal Project. Water Quality and Ecosystem Modeling, 1, 141-167.
[51] Volkert, Inc. (2010) Powdered Activated Carbon Cost Projections. Report Prepared for Mobile Area Water and Sewer Systems by Volkert Engineering, Planning and Environmental Consulting, Mobile.
[52] Center for Business and Economic Research (2001) Alabama County Level Population Projections. US Census Bureau and Center for Business and Economic Research, the University of Alabama.
[53] Moriasi, D.N., Arnold, J.G., Van Liew, M.W., Bingner, R.L., Harned, R.D. and Veith, T.L. (2007) Model Evaluation Guidelines for Systematic Quantification of Accuracy in Watershed Simulations. Transactions of the American Society of Agricultural and Biological Engineers, 50, 885-900.

Copyright © 2022 by authors and Scientific Research Publishing Inc.

Creative Commons License

This work and the related PDF file are licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.