Are rural residents willing to pay enough to improve drinking water quality?

Yongsung Cho, K. William Easter, Laura M.J. McCann, Frances Homans

Research output: Contribution to journalArticle

14 Scopus citations


The concentrations of iron and sulfate in community water supplies are a concern for a number of areas in southwestern Minnesota. This study used the contingent valuation method to determine how much consumers would be willing to pay to improve their drinking water quality. On average, individuals were willing to pay US$5.25 per month (in 1995 U.S. dollars) to reduce the level of iron and US$4.33 per month to reduce the level of sulfate in their water to the USEPA's secondary standards for drinking water quality. Respondents with negative perceptions of their drinking water quality were willing to pay more to improve water quality. The aggregate annual willingness to pay (WTP) for all consumers in community water systems in southwestern Minnesota that were out of compliance with water quality standards were estimated to be US$2.4 million and US$2.0 million (in 1995 dollars) for reducing the levels of iron and sulfate, respectively. Yet the total WTP of consumers who use small community water systems may not be enough to pay the full cost of providing improved water in those systems. Economies of scale in water treatment and difficulties in financing improvements mean that technical innovation, government assistance, or institutional changes may be needed to improve water quality in these areas.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number03154
Pages (from-to)729-740
Number of pages12
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number3
StatePublished - Jun 2005



  • Decision making
  • Drinking water quality
  • Economic valuation
  • Iron
  • Regulation
  • Rural communities
  • Sulfate
  • Water policy

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