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An important motivation for the implementation of the Water Framework Directive is the creation of non-market environmental benefits, such as improved ecological quality, or greater opportunities for open-access river recreation via microbial pollution remediation. Pollution sources impacting on ecological or recreational water quality may be uncorrelated, but non-market benefits arising from riverine improvements are typically conflated within benefit valuation studies. Using stated preference choice experiments embedded within a survey that also collected respondents’ socio-economic characteristics, we aimed to disaggregate these sources of value for different river users, thereby allowing decision makers to understand the consequences of adopting alternative investment strategies. Our results suggested that anglers derived greater value from improvements to the ecological quality of river water, in contrast to swimmers and rowers, for whom greater value is gained from improvements to recreational quality. More generally, we found three distinct groups of respondents: a majority preferring ecological over recreational improvements, a substantial minority holding opposing preference orderings, and a yet smaller proportion expressing relatively low values for either form of river quality enhancement. As such, this research demonstrates that the non-market benefits that may accrue from different types of water quality improvements are nuanced in terms of their potential beneficiaries and, by inference, their overall value and policy implications.
Original languageEnglish
Article number621
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - 19 Aug 2017


  • Water Framework Directive
  • ecological and microbiological water quality
  • choice experiment
  • willingness to pay for river water quality
  • conditional logit
  • latent class analysis
  • non-market benefits

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