Losing one acre of wetlands can cost up to $ 8,000 in flood damage

wetlands

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A first of its kind co-authored by researchers at Resources for the Future (RFF) and Columbia University in the journal American Economic Review notes that the loss of one acre of wetlands (roughly the size of two and a half football fields) costs society an average of $ 1,900 in flood damage per year. In developed areas, that number jumps to more than $ 8,000.

The benefits of conserving wetlands are not well documented, while the costs, such as those incurred by complying with the rules of the Clean Water Act, are. That paper offers new evidence of the benefits of wetlands, as the Supreme Court takes up a case that may limit federal government‘s jurisdiction over wetland protection under the Clean Water Act. The Environmental Protection Agency under the Biden administration is also in the process of redefining and updating federal waterway regulations.

“Wetlands provide important benefits to communities by absorbing excess water that could otherwise cause severe flooding,” said RFF Fellow and co-author Hannah Druckenmiller. “The question is, these benefits are rarely quantified. So when policy makers decide which policies to implement, any analysis of benefits and costs is likely to be skewed to favor costs. In this paper, we seek to highlight the benefits of wetlands to help balancing weights. “

Druckenmiller and her co-author, Charles A. Taylor of Columbia University, assess how wetland loss is related to increases in flood damage by examining payments from the National Flood Insurance Program (NFIP). Most flood insurance Americans use NFIP, so claims made under this program are likely to make up a significant portion of flood housing costs. The authors find that loss of wetlands significantly increases flood insurance claims made under the NFIP; on average, one hectare of wetland loss between 2001 and 2016 increased floods by $ 1,900 per year. In developed areas, the average rises to more than $ 8,000 per year. acres.

Not all flood damage is captured by the NFIP, so the paper probably underestimates the value of wetlands to mitigate floods. The results also do not take into account the benefits of recreation, habitat creation, water filtrationor the fishing industry.

The authors note several other key results:

  • The United States lost approximately 330,000 acres of wetlands between 2001 and 2016. The authors estimate that this loss will cost the country more than $ 600 million a year in major flood damage.
  • Wetlands are valuable to society as a whole. The flood mitigation value of wetlands for local property owners (those in the same Zip code as the wetland) accounts for less than 30 percent of their full benefits for all users in the watershed.
  • The annual benefits of reducing floods outweigh the costs of conserving wetlands (based on land values) within 6 to 22 years on average. However, these costs and benefits vary widely across the site. To help land use planners and local policy makers understand the value of conservation in their area, the authors provide spatially resolved maps of wetlands advantage and costs.
  • Increases in wetlands do not appear to reduce flood damage, which calls into question the extent to which wetland restoration can offset the negative effects of wetland loss.

It is noteworthy that the paper’s findings contradict the 2020 interpretation of the rules for the protection of navigating water, which removed the protection of wetlands not directly connected to watercourses or rivers. Druckenmiller and Taylor rather found that the most valuable wetlands for flood mitigation are those that are slightly removed from the nearest river or stream. The authors note that their findings are more in line with the 2015 interpretation of the rule, which was repealed in 2019.

“The Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers cited a lack of credible estimates of the value of wetlands to justify the exclusion of many sites under the 2020 Navigable Waters Rule, “Taylor said.” Our results present a new perspective – and hopefully they can serve as a valuable asset as the rules evolve. ”


New economic model finds that wetlands provide billions in filtration value


More information:
Charles A. Taylor et al., Wetlands, Flooding, and the Clean Water Act, American Economic Review (2022). DOI: 10.1257 / aer.20210497

Provided by Resources for the Future

Citation: Losing one acre of wetlands can cost up to $ 8,000 in flood damage (2022, April 1) Retrieved July 18, 2022 from https://phys.org/news/2022-04-hectare-wetlands-upward.html

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