Linking water quality and well-being for improved assessment and valuation of ecosystem services

Bonnie L. Keeler, Stephen Polasky, Kate A. Brauman, Kris A. Johnson, Jacques C. Finlay, Ann O'Neille, Kent Kovacs, Brent Dalzell

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

242 Scopus citations


Despite broad recognition of the value of the goods and services provided by nature, existing tools for assessing and valuing ecosystem services often fall short of the needs and expectations of decision makers. Here we address one of the most important missing components in the current ecosystem services toolbox: a comprehensive and generalizable framework for describing and valuing water quality-related services. Water quality is often mis-represented as a final ecosystem service. We argue that it is actually an important contributor to many different services, from recreation to human health. We present a valuation approach for water quality-related services that is sensitive to different actions that affect water quality, identifies aquatic endpoints where the consequences of changing water quality on human well-being are realized, and recognizes the unique groups of beneficiaries affected by those changes. We describe the multiple biophysical and economic pathways that link actions to changes in water quality-related ecosystem goods and services and provide guidance to researchers interested in valuing these changes. Finally, we present a valuation template that integrates biophysical and economic models, links actions to changes in service provision and value estimates, and considers multiple sources of water quality-related ecosystem service values without double counting.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)18619-18624
Number of pages6
JournalProceedings of the National Academy of Sciences of the United States of America
Issue number45
StatePublished - Nov 6 2012

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