Economic Study of the Value of Water in the Laurel Highlands

“When the well is dry, we’ll know the worth of water.” Benjamin Franklin. Unfortunately, many people do not fully understand the value of water, but a partnership of organizations in south western Pennsylvania has set out to make that change.

Mountain Watershed Association is just one of those organizations being the driving force of a new study- Economic Study of the Value of Water in the Laurel Highlands. Other organizations such as Trout Unlimited, the Pennsylvania Environmental Council, Somerset Conservation District, Loyalhanna Watershed Association, and more (full list here) are involved and fully invested in this work. These groups set out to determine the total economic value of water specifically in the Conemaugh, Loyalhanna, and Youghiogheny watersheds in order to help local government agencies and citizens make more informed decisions about policy and conservation surrounding water quality and water quantity issues.

To be able to carry out such a worthy task, these organizations formed a steering committee and hired an economics company, Key-Log Economics, to write the study. The study focuses mainly on the following five PA counties; Indiana, Westmoreland, Fayette, Cambria, and Somerset. Overall, this region of study is over 1.9 million acres containing unique feature such as Pennsylvania’s highest peak and deepest river gorge.

When this study is finished the goal is to share it with the municipalities, watershed groups, local government leaders, environmental organizations, and citizens. It has the potential to increase and leverage more grant monies for organizations and groups who make decisions and policies surrounding water. The study analyses the economics around water ecosystems, abandoned mine remediation, future nature gas and mining development, recreation, sewage management, as well as Best Management Practices for controlling runoff. Recommendations will be drawn from these results that can be implemented to continue to improve the water quality of the Laurel Highlands.

Three public meeting were held mid-May, where community members as well as local government leaders were able to listen to the preliminary findings, give input on areas of study they thought may have been lacking, and help develop recommendations. Nearly 100 people attended the three public meetings where a great amount of input was shared.
For more information about this study and to read the Draft Executive Summary for a more in depth look, visit Key-Log Economics website here.