Estimating the benefits of low flow alleviation in rivers: the case of the Ticino River
In Switzerland 60% of electricity is produced by hydropower plants. The construction and operation of these plants determine some negative environmental externalities, such as diminishing ground water levels and spring flows, and a reduction in river flow, which can severely curtail recreational and fishing activities. This study concentrates on an ex-ante appraisal of the monetary benefits resulting from an enhancement of river flow for recreational fishing purposes. A comparison of estimates of these benefits to the corresponding costs, in terms of loss of electricity production, incurred by hydropower plants to alleviate low flows may be useful for policymakers. For this analysis, as suggested by Layman et al. (1996), we extend the Travel Cost Method (TCM) to estimate the economic value of recreational fishing in the Ticino River (the most important river of the Canton Ticino) under existing and hypothetical river flow conditions. Anglers were asked to state how the number of trips they took to the Ticino River would change if an increase in the river flow was imposed on the hydropower plants. The empirical results show that an enhancement of river flow increases the annual consumer surplus for a typical angler by approximately 1000 SFr.