Using economic valuation methods for environment and health assessment

Case studies of integrated policies

When New York City's water quality was threatened by increased bacterial and agricultural pollution, an economic valuation estimated that a managed ecosystem approach to the protection of the Catskill Mountain watershed could restore the natural filtration mechanisms protecting the city's water quality and health – at about one-sixth of the cost of a modern water filtration plant. The City of New York chose to adopt this approach, financed by new user fees for water and a package of economic incentives for Catskill landowners and communities to employ better land use management.

Those measures were effective because they were supported by legal tools, permitting the state to control land use in the watershed area, alongside social action that raised awareness about the importance of watershed protection.

In Thailand also, economic valuation studies have documented the long-term economic advantages to be gained from sustainable land use and sustainable agriculture. However, the absence of legal tools (e.g. systematic land use zoning, application of land taxes, land tenure rights) and the lack of public awareness, still impede the implementation of better land use policy for environment and health goals – even when the economic evidence is available.