Water Quality Costing Framework

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The INR was awarded a research project through a Water Research Commission (WRC) solicited call entitled: “CONCEPT NOTE 10 : A Research Framework to accurately determine the financial impact of deteriorating water quality and identify mechanisms to better fund water quality management”. The study aimed to develop a holistic, but conceptual water quality costing framework as a tool to give focus and support to assessing the various costs of deteriorating water quality.

The framework organizes and communicates the multiple cost categories associated with deteriorating water quality. It guides the user to 

(i) draw out the specific water quality issues, water uses and resulting cost implications specific to their context, 

(ii) gather evidence appropriate to demonstrating and quantifying the costs, 

(iii) apply suitable cost assessment methods and 

(iv) synthesize and interpret the results to inform a financing and resource mobilisation strategy for managing water quality. Given the complex nature of deteriorating water quality, multiple, context specific strategies are likely to be required.

Key foundational principles were also developed to support the use and understanding of the conceptual framework, guiding the user towards a more holistic set of cost-categories for deteriorating water quality. The four key principles are:

  1. Water quality describes the biological, chemical and physical characteristics of water as defined by the National Water Act.
  2. Costs of deteriorating water quality are related to the intended use of the water; water ‘use’ includes human needs (water user requirements) and the protection of aquatic ecosystems.
  3. Potential / projected climate change impacts on water supply, water quality and water uses / demands should be considered in identifying and assessing the costs of deteriorating water quality.
  4. The condition of the water resource prior to the pollution discharge must be considered. In assessing the costs associated with a point source discharge incident, the condition of the site prior to the incident is the point of reference (rather than the desired state). However, the desired state and cumulative impacts need to be borne in mind in considering the overall social costs of deteriorating water quality.

A Microsoft Excel-based Water Quality analysis tool was developed to be used alongside the framework. The costing tool is built on Microsoft Excel and allows the user to identify cost categories related to exceedances in their water quality data. The water quality costing tool is available for download below:

For more information on the project contact project leader Leo Quayle at lquayle@inr.org.za