Abstract

This research conducts a benefit-cost analysis of water policies to reach an optimal level of dissolved oxygen (DO) to meet year-round fishable water quality criteria in the Delaware River. A watershed pollutant load model is utilized to estimate marginal cost curves of water quality improvements to meet a more protective year-round fishable standard and annual benefits are defined to achieve future DO criteria in the Delaware River. The most cost-effective DO standard is 4.5 mg/L defined by the point where the marginal benefits of willingness to pay (WTP) for improved water quality equals the marginal costs of pollution reduction. This optimal criteria (4.5 mg/L) can be achieved at a cost of $150 million with benefits ranging from $250 to $700 million/year. While a future DO standard of 4.5 mg/L reflects an economically efficient level of water quality, this DO criteria is less protective than the level of 5–6 mg/L needed to protect anadromous fish such as the Atlantic sturgeon. The policy to reach a DO level of 6 mg/L (at 80% DO saturation) may be difficult to achieve at summer water temperatures that approach 30 °C in the Delaware River at Philadelphia.

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