Environmental Benefits of Wastewater Treatment: An Economic Valuation

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Abstract

The need of economic research into the design and implementation of policies for the efficient management of water resources has been emphasized by the European Water Framework Directive (Directive 2000/60/UE). The efficient implementation of policies to prevent the degradation and depletion of water resources requires determining their value in social and economic terms and incorporating this information into the decision-making process. A process of wastewater treatment has many associated environmental benefits. However, these benefits are often not calculated because they are not set by the market. Nevertheless, the valuation of these benefits is necessary to justify a suitable investment policy and the contributions existing in the literature are very limited. In this paper, we propose a methodology based on the estimation of shadow prices for the pollutants removed in a treatment process. This value represents the environmental benefit (avoided cost) associated with undischarged pollution. This is a pioneering approach to the economic valuation of wastewater treatment. The comparison of these benefits with the internal costs of the treatment process will provide a useful indicator for the feasibility of wastewater treatment projects.