Buffernomics: Assessing the Motivations behind Willingness to Pay for Lake Conservation
Sophie Sarkar, Philip Nyhus, and Russ Cole, Environmental Studies Program, Colby College, Waterville, ME 04901, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com
Shoreline property owners have a large incentive to conserve lake water quality. Hedonic property valuations in Maine have previously estimated that a one-meter decline of water quality as measured by Secchi disk can reduce shoreline property values by 4 – 16%. However, while some shoreline residents voluntarily install vegetated buffers and actively participate in lake stewardship, others ignore shoreline zoning laws and conservation best management practices at the expense of lake health. We examined the dichotomy of active and indifferent shoreline residents by assessing the characteristics that distinguish residents who are willing to pay (WTP) for lake conservation from those who are not. We designed and implemented a contingent valuation (CV) survey of shoreline residents on East Pond and North Pond in the Belgrade Lakes region of central Maine. The survey, sent to the permanent addresses of 89 shoreline residents, yielded an effective response rate of 44% (N=39). We performed a non-parametric analysis to assess three categories of potential determinants of WTP, including demographic characteristics, lake water quality, and perceptions of lake water quality. We found that income, age, lake association membership, and water quality perceptions were the most significant determinants of willingness-to-pay for lake conservation.