International Joint Commission


Economic valuation of natural resource damages and ecosystem services


Lake Erie Basin

Service Line

Project Highlights

  • Property values: This study quantified $3.458 billion in residential housing potentially at risk for being impacted by harmful algal blooms (HABs) events. For the 2011 HAB, this approach estimated lost property value services of $9.781 million for shoreline property owners and $7.087 million for nearshore property owners. For the 2014 HAB event, shoreline property owners were estimated to have lost $10.05 million in property value services, while nearshore owners lost $7.864 million.
  • Tourism: This approach indicated Ohio tourism dollars at risk range from $66 to $305 million. Associated high-end lost profits were $20.79 million and low-end lost profits were $165,000. In Michigan, $24.78 million in tourism income was at risk. This was associated with high-end lost profits of $1.685 million and low-end estimates of $124,000. Similarly, Canadian tourism economic impacts totaled $17.3 million, with high and low profitability impacts ranging from $1.6 million to $59,000.
  • Recreation: The overall benefits to recreation from the lack of a HAB event were $31 million for 2011 and $23 million for 2014.
  • Potential implications of HABs for water treatment: The only information available identifying the costs for water treatment indicated approximately $3 million per year was being incurred.
  • Overall impacts: The total impact of ecosystem service interruptions from the 2011 HAB event was found to cost roughly $71 million. For the 2014 HAB event, the estimate was roughly $65 million.

The International Joint Commission (IJC) selected ECT to better understand the socio-economic and policy implications of HABs in western Lake Erie. This study was the second phase of a previous IJC-funded study and further examined the implications of extensive HAB events, like the ones that occurred in 2011 and 2014. The previous study identified many important issues and quantified some – but not all – of the socio-economic implications of western Lake Erie HABs. This project extended the Phase 1 study by further evaluating HAB effects to regional economic welfare, including effects to recreation, water withdrawals, tourism, and property values.