Prioritizing Lakes for Conservation

Lake and Reservoir Management:

Identifying lakes in which to invest water quality conservation efforts can help more effectively target efforts and more efficiently utilize limited resources. The objective of this study was to compare different approaches to prioritize Minnesota lakes primarily for water quality protection or restoration. Lakes were objectively ranked using a multi-criteria values-based model that included phosphorus-loading resilience, level of watershed degradation, and feasibility of water quality protection or restoration. We explored how the list of priority lakes might change when incorporating benefit:cost ratios that used a hedonic model to predict land value increases with total phosphorus loading reductions. In addition, we examined the influence of including data on lakes with unique or high-quality biological communities. The multi-criteria values-based model was moderately correlated with the benefit:cost ratio approach; however, the exclusion of benefits and cost in the prioritization would likely result in the loss of a modest amount of potential benefit ($20%). A focus on impaired waters would likely result in considerable forgone benefit ($80%) and substantially higher costs. We provide recommendations on how to combine prioritization approaches along with a peer review process to produce lake priority lists that are both defensible and practical.

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