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The Good, Bad, and Ugly of Watershed Management

Efficient management of groundwater resource systems requires careful consideration of relationships — both positive and negative — with the surrounding environment. The removal of and protection against “bad” and "ugly" natural capital such as invasive plants and feral animals and the enhancement of “good” capital (e.g. protective fencing) are often viewed as distinct management problems. Yet environmental linkages to a common groundwater resource suggest that watershed management decisions should be informed by an integrated framework. We develop such a framework and derive principles that govern optimal investment in the management of two types of natural capital — those that increase recharge and those that decrease recharge — as well as groundwater extraction itself. Depending on the initial conditions of the system and the characteristics of each type of natural capital, it may make sense to remove bad capital exclusively, enhance good capital exclusively, or invest in both activities simultaneously until their marginal benefits are equal.


Optimal Joint Management of Interdependent Resources: Groundwater vs. Kiawe (Prosopis pallida)

Local and global changes continue to influence interactions between groundwater and terrestrial ecosystems. Changes in precipitation, surface water, and land cover can affect the water balance of a given watershed, and thus affect both the quantity and quality of freshwater entering the ground. Groundwater management frameworks often abstract from such interactions. However, in some cases, management instruments can be designed to target simultaneously both groundwater and an interdependent resource such as the invasive kiawe tree (Prosopis pallid), which has been shown to reduce groundwater levels. Results from a groundwater-kiawe management model suggest that at the optimum, the resource manager should be indifferent between conserving a unit of groundwater via tree removal or via reduced consumption. The model’s application to the Kona Coast (Hawai‘i) showed that kiawe management can generate a large net present value for groundwater users. Additional data will be needed to implement full optimization in the resource system.


Optimal groundwater management when recharge is declining: a method for valuing the recharge benefits of watershed conservation

Demand for water will continue to increase as per capita income rises and the population grows, and climate change can exacerbate the problem through changes in precipitation patterns and quantities, evapotranspiration, and land cover—all of which directly or indirectly affect the amount of water that ultimately infiltrates back into groundwater aquifers. We develop a dynamic management framework that incorporates alternative climate-change (and hence, recharge) scenarios and apply it to the Pearl Harbor aquifer system on O‘ahu, Hawai‘i. By calculating the net present value of water for a variety of plausible climate scenarios, we are able to estimate the indirect value of groundwater recharge that would be generated by watershed conservation activities. Enhancing recharge increases welfare by lowering the scarcity value of water in both the near term and the future, as well as delaying the need for costly alternatives such as desalination. For a reasonable range of parameter values, we find that the present value gain of maintaining recharge ranges from 31.1million to over1.5 billion.

Published version: Burnett, K. and Wada, C.A., 2014. Optimal groundwater management when recharge is declining: a method for valuing the recharge benefits of watershed conservation. Environmental Economics and Policy Studies. In Press.


The Economic Impact of the University of Hawai'i System

The University of Hawai‘i (UH) generates economic activity through its purchases from local businesses, its payment to its employees, and spending by students and visitors. This report estimates UH’s total economic activity in the state of Hawai‘i in fiscal year 2012. Following a standard approach, we define economic impact to be the direct, indirect, and induced economic activities generated by the university’s spending in the state economy.

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The Contribution of the University of Hawai‘i at Manoa to Hawai‘i’s Economy in 2012

The University of Hawai‘i at Mānoa (UHM) generates economic activity through its purchases from local businesses, its payment to its employees, and spending by students and visitors. This report estimates UHM’s total economic activity in the state of Hawai‘i in fiscal year 2012. Following a standard approach, we define economic impact to be the direct, indirect, and induced economic activities generated by the university’s spending in the state economy.

Although one can think of the UHM as if it were one of many businesses or industries in Hawai‘i, an important difference between UHM and most private businesses is that UHM gets a substantial part of its funding from taxpayers. In FY2012, UHM and the supporting RCUH (Research Corporation of the University of Hawai‘i) spent a total of $878 million in support of its education mission; the State General Fund paid $198 million of the total. Adding money spent by the privately funded UH Foundation, spending by students, out-of-town visitor spending related to UHM sponsored professional meetings and conferences brings total UHM-related expenditures to $1.40 billion in FY2012, 90% of which was spent locally.

Overall, the $1.40 billion of education-related expenditures attributable to UHM generated $2.45 billion in local business sales, $735 million in employee earnings, $131 million in state tax revenues, and slightly under 20,000 jobs in Hawai‘i in FY2012. This represented approximately 3.4% of total jobs, 2.5% of worker earnings, and 2.2% of total state tax revenues.

Looking to the future, the university’s Hawai‘i Innovation Initiative ( HI2 ) plans to more than double the UH system’s current level of extramural research funds from less than $500 million to an ambitious $1 billion per annum. If the HI2 successfully doubles research expenditures, our analysis suggests more than 5,000 new jobs would be created from the ripple effects of the research spending alone, independent of any technology transfer and other jobs created as a direct result of the research.


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Economic Impact of the NELHA Tenants

 The Natural Energy Laboratory Hawaii Authority (NELHA) contracted the University of Hawaii Economic Research Organization (UHERO) to estimate its economic impact on the State of Hawaii. NELHA currently accommodates 41 tenants ranging from companies bottling deep sea water to solar and biofuel companies. These tenants pay close to $4 million in rent, royalties and pass through expense directly to NELHA. In addition, they employ hundreds of people, purchase goods and services from local businesses, and invest in capital improvements at NELHA.


Foundations for Hawai‘i’s Green Economy: Economic Trends in Hawai‘i Agriculture, Energy, and Natural Resource Management

It is clear from previous studies that Hawai‘i’s natural capital is highly valued and should be managed accordingly. For example, Kaiser et al. (1999) estimate that the Ko‘olau watershed provides forest benefits valued between $7.4 and $ 14 billion, comprised of water resource benefits ($4,736-­‐9,156 million), species habitat benefits ($487-­‐1,434 million), biodiversity benefits ($0.67-­‐5.5 million), subsistence benefits ($34.7-­‐131 million), hunting related benefits ($62.8-­‐237 million), aesthetic values ($1,040-­‐3,070 million), commercial harvest ($0.6-­‐2.4 million), and ecotourism ($1,000-­‐2,980 million). Hawai‘i’s coral reefs alone are estimated to generate at least $10 billion in present value, or $360 million per annum (Cesar and van Beukering, 2004). Another recent study considering the value to all U.S. households finds that increasing the current size of marine protected areas in Hawai‘i from 1% to 25% and restoring five acres of coral reefs annually would generate $34 billion per year (Bishop et al., 2011).2 While many studies that place value on Hawai‘i’s natural resources have been undertaken in recent years, little is known about the economic impacts generated by agencies charged with protecting and managing these important resources in Hawai‘i. To that end, an online survey of natural resource managers in Hawai‘i was conducted, and the results are summarized in section 6 of this report.


Foundations for Hawai‘i’s Green Economy: Economic Trends in Hawai‘i Agriculture, Energy, and Natural Resource Management

This report provides the first comparison of standard economic indicators for three sectors that are key to future sustainability in Hawai‘i - renewable energy, agriculture and natural resource management. Economic information has long been collected for many sectors in Hawai‘i, including agriculture and energy, but no systematic surveys have been conducted on the NRM sector to date. With support from The Nature Conservancy and Hau‘oli Mau Loa Foundation, the University of Hawai‘i Economic Research Organization was tasked with characterizing this important part of Hawai‘i’s economy, in terms of number and types of jobs, salaries, and annual expenditures.


Economic Analysis of the Proposed Rule to Prevent Arrival of New Genetic Strains of the Rust Fungus Puccinia psidii in Hawai‘i

Since its first documented introduction to Hawai‘i in 2005, the rust fungus P. psidii has already severely damaged Syzygium jambos (Indian rose apple) trees and the federallyendangered Eugenia koolauensis (nioi). Fortunately, the particular strain has yet to cause serious damage to ‘ōhi‘a, which comprises roughly 80% of the state’s native forests and covers 400,000 ha. Although the rust has affected less than 5% of Hawaii’s ‘ōhi‘a trees thus far, the introduction of more virulent strains and the genetic evolution of the current strain are still possible. Since the primary pathway of introduction is Myrtaceae plant material imported from outside the state, potential damage to ‘ohi‘a can be minimized by regulating those high-risk imports. We discuss the economic impact on the state’s florist, nursery, landscaping, and forest plantation industries of a proposed rule that would ban the import of non-seed Myrtaceae plant material and require a one-year quarantine of seeds. Our analysis suggests that the benefits to the forest plantation industry of a complete ban on non-seed material would likely outweigh the costs to other affected sectors, even without considering the reduction in risk to ‘ōhi‘a. Incorporating the value of ‘ōhi‘a protection would further increase the benefit-cost ratio in favor of an import ban.

Working Paper

Species Invasion as Catastrophe: The Case of the Brown Tree Snake


This paper develops a two-stage model for the optimal management of a potential invasive species. The arrival of an invasive species is modeled as an irreversible event with an uncertain arrival time. The model is solved in two stages, beginning with the post-invasion stage. Once the arrival occurs, the optimal path of species removal is that which minimizes the present value of damage and removal costs plus the expected present value of prevention costs. An expenditure-dependent, conditional hazard rate describing species arrival is developed based on discussions with natural resource managers. We solve for the optimal sequence of prevention expenditures, given the minimum invasion penalty as just described. For the case of the Brown Tree Snake potentially invading Hawaii, we find that pre-invasion expenditures on prevention are inverse U-shaped in the hazard rate. Efficient prevention should be approximately $2.9million today and held constant until invasion. Once invasion occurs, optimal prevention requires $3.1million annually and $1.6million per year on species removal to keep the population at its steady state level, due to high search costs at very small population levels.

Published: Burnett, K., S. Pongkijvorasin, and J. Roumasset. "Species Invasion as Catastrophe: The Case of the Brown Tree Snake," Environmental and Resource Economics, 51:241-254, doi:10.1007/s10640-011-9497-3.


Islands of Sustainability in Time and Space

We review the economics perspective on sustainable resource use and sustainable development. Under standard conditions, dynamic efficiency leads to sustainability of renewable resources but not the other way around. For the economic‐ecological system as a whole, dynamic efficiency and intergenerational equity similarly lead to sustainability, but ad hoc rules of sustainability may well lead to sacrifices in human welfare. We then address the challenges of extending economic sustainability to space as well as time and discuss the factors leading to optimal islands of preservation regarding renewable resources. Exogenous mandates based on moral imperatives such as self‐sufficiency and strong sustainability may result in missed win‐win opportunities that could improve both the economy and the environment, as well as increase social welfare across generations.


Efficient Management of Coastal Marine Nutrient Loads with Multiple Sources of Abatement Instruments

Pollution management based on marginal abatement costs is optimal only if those abatement costs are specified correctly. Using the example of nitrogen pollution in groundwater, we show that the marginal abatement cost function for any given pollution source can be directly derived from a social-welfare maximization problem, wherein controls include both abatement instruments and inputs to pollution-generating production of a good or service. The solution to the optimization model reveals that abatement instruments for each source should be used in order of least marginal abatement cost, and the sources should in turn abate in order of least cost. The least-cost result remains optimal, even when the abatement target is exogenously determined.

Working Paper

The Impact of Civil Unions on Hawaii's Economy and Government

This report provides quantitative and qualitative measures of the impact of same-sex civil unions on the Hawai`i economy, Hawai`i businesses, and the State of Hawai`i’s budget. More specifically, we examine the effect of civil unions on tourism arrivals to Hawai`i; state government revenues and expenditures; employer provision of health insurance to civil union partners and their dependents; and the family with civil union partners. We conclude that the legalization of civil unions in Hawai`i will have only a very minimal impact on any aspect of Hawai`i’s economy and state government operations.

Working Paper

Optimal Management of a Hawaiian Coastal Aquifer with Near-Shore Marine Ecological Interactions

We optimize groundwater management in the presence of marine consequences of submarine groundwater discharge (SGD). Concern for marine biota increases the optimal steady-state head level of the aquifer. The model is discussed in general terms for any coastal groundwater resource where SGD has a positive impact on valuable near-shore resources. Our application focuses of the Kona Coast of Hawai’i, where SGD is being actively studied and where both near-shore ecology and groundwater resources are serious socio-political issues. To incorporate the consequences of water extraction on nearshore resources, we impose a safe minimum standard for the quantity of SGD. Efficient pumping rates fluctuate according to various growth requirements on the keystone marine algae and different assumptions regarding recharge rates. Desalination is required under average recharge conditions and a strict minimum standard, and under low recharge conditions regardless of minimum standards of growth.

working paper

An Economic Assessment of Biological Control for Miconia calvescens in Hawaii

Biocontrol, the introduction of organisms to control an unwanted species, has been cited as a powerful method to manage the invasive species Miconia calvescens in Hawaii. In addition to ecological advantages, biocontrol is often regarded as less costly than traditional methods despite the large initial investment. Currently, miconia in Hawaii is treated through aerial and manual operations, which cost over $1 million annually. Biocontrol for miconia in Hawaii began in 1997 and the search for more agents continues today. Although biocontrol for miconia has already begun, prior to this study no assessment of its economic justifiability had been done. This research evaluates the present value of net benefits of miconia biocontrol in Hawaii. Cost data were gathered from scientists in charge of biocontrol programs. Benefits were defined as the cost-savings of current control methods. Two different biocontrol programs were modeled: control achieved by a single agent, and control achieved by a suite of agents. In addition, different dispersal rates and efficacies of biocontrol and two release dates were modeled. Because most costs of biocontrol are incurred before the release of a successful agent and the benefits are only realized post-release, each scenario was evaluated over a 50-year time horizon. The results indicate a positive present value of net benefits in all scenarios, ranging from $12.8 million to $36.1 million. Thus, biocontrol for miconia in Hawaii appears to be economically justifiable. This research should enable scientists, economists and policy makers to make informed decisions about the optimal management of Miconia calvescens in Hawaii.

working paper

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