Economic evaluation of riparian buffers in an agricultural watershed

Zeyuan Qiu, Tony Prato

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

32 Scopus citations


This study determines the most cost effective spatial pattern of farming systems for improving water quality and evaluates the economic value of riparian buffers in reducing agricultural nonpoint source pollution in a Midwestern agricultural watershed. Economic and water quality impacts of alternative farming systems are evaluated using the CARE and SWAT models, respectively. The water quality benefits of riparian buffers are estimated by combining experimental data and simulated water quality impacts of farming systems obtained using SWAT. The net economic value of riparian buffers in improving water quality is estimated by total watershed net return with riparian buffers minus total watershed net return without riparian buffers minus the opportunity cost of riparian buffers. Exclusive of maintenance cost, the net economic value of riparian buffers in reducing atrazine concentration from 45 to 24 ppb is $612,117 and the savings in government cost is $631,710. Results strongly support efforts that encourage farmers to develop or maintain riparian buffers adjacent to streams.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)877-890
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number4
StatePublished - Aug 1998
Externally publishedYes

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


  • Economic evaluation
  • GIS
  • Nonpoint source pollution
  • Riparian buffers
  • SWAT
  • Simulation
  • Water quality
  • Watershed management


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