Once there was a river: a benefit–cost analysis of rehabilitation of the Jordan River

Abstract

The Jordan River is among the world’s most famous and culturally and historically significant waterways. The lower stretch of the river, however, has been a victim of development in a water scarce region, with current flows less than 5 % of historical levels. Furthermore, as it functions as an international border in a region of conflict, access to the river and its potential as a tourist attraction has been limited. Recently, there have been numerous calls for rehabilitation of the river. This study presents a first estimate of the economic benefits of such rehabilitation and compares them to the estimated costs. Identical contingent valuation method surveys were administered in Israel, Jordan, and the Palestinian Authority. Evidence from this study shows that, despite the large opportunity costs of increasing environmental flows, rehabilitation of the lower Jordan would produce positive net economic benefits. This is true even though the study estimated only the benefits to local populations, and not to international tourists or those outside the region. Net benefits are maximized when taking a regional, as opposed to strictly national, approach.

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Notes

  1. 1.

    Current shadow prices for marginal water in the Jordan Valley are likely lower than the price of desalination (see, for example, Fisher and Huber-Lee 2011); however, for the quantities necessary for restoration, shadow prices are likely greater than the cost of desalination, given conveyance and other costs.

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Acknowledgments

The authors would like to thank Saeb Bamya of CORE Associates, Palestine and Ele Jan Saaf, of SaafConsult BV, Jordan, who collaborated on the design and administration of the surveys. We would also like to thank Friends of the Earth-Middle East (FOEME) for its financial support of the project, specifically Elizabeth Yaari for coordination, and Youval Arbel for scientific feedback.

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Correspondence to David Katz.

Appendix: Visual aid to the survey describing the four scenarios

Appendix: Visual aid to the survey describing the four scenarios

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Becker, N., Helgeson, J. & Katz, D. Once there was a river: a benefit–cost analysis of rehabilitation of the Jordan River. Reg Environ Change 14, 1303–1314 (2014). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10113-013-0578-4

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Keywords

  • Arab-Israeli
  • Contingent valuation
  • Ecosystem services
  • Environmental economics
  • Non-market value
  • River restoration