An economic assessment of the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan

Rosalind Bark-Hodgins, Bonnie G. Colby

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Citations (Scopus)


Riparian corridors supply many environmental and aesthetic services in the arid and semi-arid regions world wide. Riparian ecosystems provide water filtering, bank stabilizing, flood mitigating benefits, and habitat for native birds, bats, fish, and other wildlife. The juxtaposition of lush herbaceous and treed areas with upland desert also makes these corridors an aesthetic resource. In Arizona, urban homeowners are one of the primary "consumers" of the riparian corridor. Recent research demonstrates that riparian corridors are capitalized into nearby home values. Specific to this research, urban and suburban homebuyers are willing to pay high premiums to live near sections of riparian corridors that support dense, species rich, and perennial-water-dependent habitat. In this study we calculate the estimated increases in property values and property tax revenues associated with proximity to healthy urban riparian corridors. These property premiums are then compared to the estimated costs of water leases necessary to support water-dependent habitats as detailed in the Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan (SDCP). The plan aims to protect open space in the Sonoran Desert in southern Arizona, specifically in Pima County. The property premiums are estimated at between $126.54M (Million) and $253.08M and generate an estimated $1.23M-$2.46M per annum in incremental property tax revenues, whereas, the annual cost of water leases to support the vegetation is $0.54M. This partial economic analysis demonstrates that urban riparian habitat preservation and restoration with the allocation of renewable water supplies can be financially self-supporting. In addition, the estimated property price premiums indicate potential benefits to modifying current well-spacing rules in Arizona.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)709-725
Number of pages17
JournalNatural Resources Journal
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - 2006

Cite this