Ecosystem services in urban water investment

John M Kandulu, Jeffery D Connor, Darla Hatton MacDonald

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


Increasingly, water agencies and utilities have an obligation to consider the broad environmental impacts associated with investments. To aid in understanding water cycle interdependencies when making urban water supply investment decisions, an ecosystem services typology was augmented with the concept of integrated water resources management. This framework is applied to stormwater harvesting in a case study catchment in Adelaide, South Australia. Results show that this methodological framework can effectively facilitate systematic consideration and quantitative assessment of broad environmental impacts of water supply investments. Five ecosystem service impacts were quantified including provision of 1) urban recreational amenity, 2) regulation of coastal water quality, 3) salinity, 4) greenhouse gas emissions, and 5) support of estuarine habitats. This study shows that ignoring broad environmental impacts can underestimate ecosystem service benefits of water supply investments by a value of up to A$1.36/kL, or three times the cost of operating and maintenance of stormwater harvesting. Rigorous assessment of the public welfare impacts of water infrastructure investments is required to guide long-term optimal water supply investment decisions. Numerous challenges remain in the quantification of broad environmental impacts of a water supply investment including a lack of peer-reviewed studies of environmental impacts, aggregation of incommensurable impacts, potential for double-counting errors, uncertainties in available impact estimates, and how to determine the most suitable quantification technique.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)43-53
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - 2014

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