Environmental Management

, Volume 40, Issue 1, pp 105–112 | Cite as

Economic Impacts of Zebra Mussels on Drinking Water Treatment and Electric Power Generation Facilities

  • Nancy A. ConnellyEmail author
  • Charles R. O’NeillJr.
  • Barbara A. Knuth
  • Tommy L. Brown


Invasions of nonnative species such as zebra mussels can have both ecological and economic consequences. The economic impacts of zebra mussels have not been examined in detail since the mid-1990s. The purpose of this study was to quantify the annual and cumulative economic impact of zebra mussels on surface water-dependent drinking water treatment and electric power generation facilities (where previous research indicated the greatest impacts). The study time frame was from the first full year after discovery in North America (Lake St. Clair, 1989) to the present (2004); the study area was throughout the mussels’ North American range. A mail survey resulted in a response rate of 31% for electric power companies and 41% for drinking water treatment plants. Telephone interviews with a sample of nonrespondents assessed nonresponse bias; only one difference was found and adjusted for. Over one-third (37%) of surveyed facilities reported finding zebra mussels in the facility and almost half (45%) have initiated preventive measures to prevent zebra mussels from entering the facility operations. Almost all surveyed facilities (91%) with zebra mussels have used control or mitigation alternatives to remove or control zebra mussels. We estimated that 36% of surveyed facilities experienced an economic impact. Expanding the sample to the population of the study area, we estimated $267 million (BCa 95% CI = $161 million–$467 million) in total economic costs for electric generation and water treatment facilities through late 2004, since 1989. Annual costs were greater ($44,000/facility) during the early years of zebra mussel infestation than in recent years ($30,000). As a result of this and other factors, early predictions of the ultimate costs of the zebra mussel invasion may have been excessive.


Aquatic nuisance species Economic impacts Invasive species Zebra mussels 



Development of this publication was supported by the National Sea Grant College Program of the U.S. Department of Commerce’s National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration under award NA16RG1645-020122 to the Research Foundation of the State University of New York for New York Sea Grant. The views expressed herein do not necessarily reflect the views of any of those organizations.


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media, LLC 2007

Authors and Affiliations

  • Nancy A. Connelly
    • 1
    • 3
    Email author
  • Charles R. O’NeillJr.
    • 2
  • Barbara A. Knuth
    • 1
  • Tommy L. Brown
    • 1
  1. 1.Human Dimensions Research Unit, Department of Natural ResourcesCornell UniversityIthacaUSA
  2. 2.Cornell University, New York Sea Grant Extension, Morgan Hall, State University CollegeBrockportUSA
  3. 3.126 Fernow Hall, Cornell UniversityIthacaUSA

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