What is the value of naturally purified water used for potable water production?

Water purification is amongst one of the most cited benefits provided by nature to humans, referred to as ecosystem services. Due to natural groundwater purification, groundwater is usually cleaner than surface water, which is why the drinking water treatment costs of groundwater are lower than surface water. Hence, natural purification of groundwater cuts the treatment costs. Understanding the factors affecting drinking water treatment costs is also necessary for designing cost-efficient public water systems. Moreover, a monetary valuation of groundwater purification services, which have not yet been sufficiently assessed, would help to improve decision-making processes.

Hence, we studied the factors affecting water treatment costs in the Czech Republic. We also applied the replacement cost method to estimate the value of groundwater purification. Using this method, the value of groundwater purification was estimated as the cost difference between the treatment of surface water and the treatment of groundwater.

The results showed that drinking-water production from groundwater was cheaper than from surface water approximately by 0.078-0.093 EUR/m3. However, some treatment technologies increased the treatment costs; therefore, drinking water production from groundwater can be more expensive than from surface water if these technologies have to be applied. Next, we confirmed the economies of scale in drinking water production, which imply that centralised water treatment is more cost-efficient.

It should be emphasised that this approach measures the value of extra-purification of groundwater relative to surface water only. The value of purification of surface water is not calculated even though its value is substantial.

Referenced article:

Horváthová, E. (2022). Analysis of Drinking Water treatment costs – with an Application to Groundwater Purification Valuation. One Ecosystem, 7, e82125. https://doi.org/10.3897/oneeco.7.e82125

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