Economic Impact Analysis: 1st Progress Report, January 4, 2001
Section VI: Further Areas of Inquiry & Next Steps


FURTHER AREAS OF INQUIRY

The Study Team has conducted a substantial amount of secondary and primary research at this early point in the study of Economic Impacts of Enhanced Aquifer Protection for the LPRV. Our research is by no means complete but we have a clear indication of the information and data which is likely to be available and the data which will not be available for our draft report, set for completion in May 2001. Based upon a mutual understanding at the commencement of this study, primary data collection such as groundwater monitoring or household surveys would not be a part of this initial work. As part of this Phase I effort, however, the Study Team agreed to identify areas of uncertainty where more research or deeper analysis might be worthwhile.

The first area of potential further inquiry would be the linkage of surface activity, be it sewage disposal or storm water drainage, and the quantified effects on groundwater. Preliminary data indicate a definite linkage between the selected surface activities and constituents of concern as described in this report, but a precise quantification of this relationship is unlikely in this Phase I effort. For example, we will not be able to quantify the effects of more septics in a particular square mile of the LPRV as they affect the groundwater in a given area at a given point in time. There are two ways of accomplishing this closer linkage: more analysis of existing groundwater-surface water connection data; and generation of new groundwater data linked to surface activity. In the first instance, individual well data would be further evaluated in terms of direct statistical linkage. In the second instance, new primary geotechnical data would be generated. Additional well data and perhaps additional monitoring would be helpful as part of a later research phase.

Secondly, the quantification of economic benefits associated with the preservation of the aquifer could be improved by a willingness to pay study. This would entail a survey of residents and perhaps businesses regarding their willingness to pay higher water, wastewater or storm water utility bills or a tax levy to preserve the groundwater quality of the LPRV aquifer. The results of the Phase I study might well point to a trade-off of the benefits of a perceived safeguard to water quality by Valley residents and a direct cost in terms of utility bills. The question will then be do the rate payers think this higher level of confidence is worth the out-of-pocket costs? The Study Team has performed such studies in the past and believes this would be useful in this instance, depending on the outcome of our initial work.

A third area of potential further inquiry would be the perception itself of a sensitive resource designation for the LPRV. A legitimate question has been raised at to whether the sensitive resource designation would be perceived as a positive demonstration of proactive efforts to improve groundwater quality or, conversely, an official and negative public recognition of a water quality problem. One set of interviews would be conducted with businesses in the LPRV and elsewhere in Idaho or other locations where the possibility for relocating to Pocatello or Chubbuck exists. Another set of interviews, conducted in a focus group setting, would be performed with new LPRV residents and others who might relocate to the region. The attraction of future businesses and residents to an area such as LPRV might hinge on such a perception.

The fourth area of potential further inquiry would be into water use by type of user by self-supplied water users in the LPRV. Customers of the cities of Pocatello or Chubbuck are metered for the amount of use and billed as a category of customer, i.e., residential, commercial, industrial. Similar data is not available for residential and non-residential customers in the LPRV who have their own water supplies through wells or other means. Well counts by size of pope and pump would be derived. Groundwater well volume data would be sought and analyzed. This information would be important both in terms of the groundwater withdrawal-recharge balance and spatial or quality effects. In addition, further knowledge and monitoring of these customers might be important in any aquifer protection system.

It is uncertain whether the Phase I results would apply to southern parts of Bannock County. An additional task would be to look at the characteristics of these areas and compare them to the LPRV based only on available data. A preliminary observation about the applicability of the LPRV findings to adjacent areas would be made. If conditions are fundamentally different, applicability of the LPRV results would be limited.

The cost and time period for these additional areas of inquiry is uncertain since groundwater quality-surface activity linkage might require additional groundwater monitoring, or even a modeling of the groundwater quality circumstance in the LPRV. The Study Team recommends against the commitment of monies for well drilling, monitoring or a major modeling effort at this time. Costs for the proposed Phase II would be less than or equal to $115,000.

Alternatively, the research evaluation envisioned for the May 2001 report will indicate magnitude and direction of effects and point out the benefits and costs in at least a qualitative fashion of enhanced aquifer protection. Depending upon questions raised by the public at that time, such information might be sufficient to make a decision about enhanced aquifer protection for the LPRV.

 

NEXT STEPS

Extensive work remains to be done on this study over the course of the next few months. The following is a task by task description of upcoming, key work elements:

 

SCHEDULE

The following is the schedule of deliverables during Spring 2001: