A newly-revamped website offers Iowans a host of information about more than 130 of the state’s lakes and how water quality improvements could translate to economic benefits. Catherine Kling, an economics professor at Iowa State University, says the website is part of the Iowa Lakes Valuation Project.
Kling says the information there is intended to provide data to lake users, policymakers and others who may be making decisions about investments in water quality or facilities. She says there’s data about the usage of the various lakes and the economic value associated with that usage. Kling says virtually all Iowa lakes would benefit from having more money spent on improving their water quality but the amount of that benefit varies from lake-to-lake.
She says: "There are some lakes that are in closer access to population centers or are already pretty nice lakes and with further improvement, could be really spectacular lakes. Those may be more valuable to invest in than lakes that are less close to population centers or don’t have some pretty good facilities around them already." The website lets visitors browse the lakes in the system through a state map, choose specific lakes in a pull-down menu or find lakes listed by county.
Kling didn’t want to single out any particular lake where money would best be invested, as she says a few dozen are at the top of that list. She says about 35 lakes on the website have estimates of economic impact associated with improvements, which is a "part of the calculus of which lakes should be focused on, but it should also depend on the amount of local interest."
The Iowa Lakes Valuation Project is a collaboration of Iowa State University economists and ecologists and is funded by the Iowa Department of Natural Resources and the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The site is run by a team at the Center for Agricultural and Rural Development , or CARD.