Valuing Economic Impact Reductions of Nutrient Pollution from Livestock Waste

Nutrient pollution from livestock waste impacts both fresh and marine coastal waters. Harmful algae blooms (HABs) are a common ecosystem-level response to such pollution that is detrimental to both aquatic life and human health and that generates economic losses (e.g., property values and lost tourism). Waste treatment and management technologies are not well established practices due, in part, to the difficulty to attribute economic value to associated social and environmental impacts of nutrient pollution. In this work, we propose a computational framework to quantify the economic impacts of HABs. We demonstrate the advantage of quantifying these impacts through a case study on livestock waste management in the Upper Yahara watershed region (in the state of Wisconsin, USA). Our analysis reveals that every excess kilogram of phosphorus runoff from livestock waste results in total economic losses of 74.5 USD. Furthermore, we use a coordinated market analysis to demonstrate that this economic impact provides a strong enough incentive to activate a nutrient management and valorization market that can help balance phosphorus within the study area. The proposed framework can help state, tribes, and federal regulatory agencies develop regulatory and non-regulatory policies to mitigate the impacts of nutrient pollution.