Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science in Resource Economics


Resource Economics

First Advisor

Timothy Tyrrell


Narragansett Bay has long been considered Rhode Island's most valuable natural resource, and the continued discharge of pollutants jeopardizes the environmental integrity of the entire Bay. High pollution levels result in frequent closures of fishing and shellfishing areas, limit the extent of water-based activities such as swimming and boating, and create an undesirable waterfront environment.

Scientists have spent considerable time and money studying Narragansett Bay to determine the sources and extent of pollution. Areawide water quality management plans have been developed to identify the sources and effects of water pollution and to establish programs to help mitigate the serious water quality problems. The potential economic gains of improved water quality have received less attention. In particular, there has been no significant research which addresses the potential benefits of improving sewage treatment facilities.

The objective of this study is to estimate the social value of improving water quality in Narragansett Bay by improving waste treatment facilities. The contingent valuation technique was chosen to estimate the potential benefits from water quality changes.

Preliminary results indicate a total willingness to pay for water quality improvements which allow safe swimming and shellfishing of up to $67.9 million and $79.3 million per year respectively. This compares favorably to the estimated total annual cost of $2.9 million for water quality projects.

The results of this study are an important component in the determination of net benefits to society of pollution control when used in conjunction with cost information for existing water quality projects. The positive net benefits indicate that further expenditures in the area of pollution control are justified.

The results of this research can also give an indication of how compatible policy decisions are with societies goals for environmental preservation.



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