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An Oklahoma water conflict six years later: re-evaluation of willingness to pay for water ecosystem services

Authors: Claire Burch*, University of Oklahoma, Michelle Busch, University of Oklahoma, Edward Higgins, University of Oklahoma, Steven Bittner, University of Oklahoma, Kevin Neal, University of Oklahoma, Nuwanthika Perera, University of Oklahoma, Lawrence Burkett, University of Oklahoma, Antonio Castro, University of Almeria, Idaho State University, Christopher Anderson, University of Oklahoma
Topics: Water Resources and Hydrology, Environmental Perception
Keywords: water resource management, Oklahoma, water conflict, ecosystem services, valuation
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


In recent years, researchers have begun to adopt a perspective evaluating winners and losers regarding the consumption of ecosystem services, where winners tend to benefit from the ecosystem service and losers absorb most associated costs. Our study focuses on water use in Oklahoma and a proposed plan to divert water from the Kiamichi River in southeastern Oklahoma for consumption at residences in the Oklahoma City metropolitan area. Our study is a follow-up from an initial 2013 survey, warranted because of litigation and increased public attention. An online survey was distributed within the state of Oklahoma to evaluate changes to water ecosystem service valuation and willingness to pay. This survey also included an experimental element assessing if exposure to additional information about the water conflict influenced responses about ecosystem service valuation or willingness to pay. Our results generally aligned with those found in the 2013 survey; Oklahoma City residents are not aware of where their water is coming from and are not willing to pay to protect ecosystem services. Our survey, in addition, found that the majority Republican watershed residents were willing to pay more to protect ecosystem services than other groups. This supports the idea that political conservatism may not always impede valuation of environmental protection. Our experimental component showed no significant difference. We conclude that, despite increased attention to conflict related to water ecosystem services, beneficiaries are still not aware of the consequences or willing to pay to protect the ecosystem they will be benefitting from.

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