Chloé L'Ecuyer-Sauvageau

Université du Québec en Outaouais
Understanding the preferences of water users in a context of cyanobacterial blooms in Quebec

Chloé L’Ecuyer-Sauvageau, Charlène Kermagoret, Jérôme Dupras, Jie He, Thomas Poder, Justin Leroux, Marie-Pier Schinck

Algal blooms, whether they are harmful or more akin to a nuisance, pose negative impacts on human well-being. In the province of Quebec, excessive phosphorus that contributes to the problem of cyanobacterial blooms comes mainly from non-point sources. Limited regulation on the management of this nutrient and its capacity to accumulate in soils contribute to increasing the magnitude of the effects of algal blooms on humans and the environment. This research focused on studying the perception of recreationists and people living near affected waterbodies. More specifically, we wanted to understand the trade-offs individuals make between different ecosystem services (ES), mainly cultural ES, provided by waterbodies (recreational activities, aesthetic aspects, and ecological health). We also wanted to estimate the average willingness to pay of individuals to finance mechanisms that would allow the resolution of the issue. To achieve our objectives, we used a choice modelling approach enclosed in a questionnaire that was conducted in person (n=252). For our analysis, we used conditional logit with and without interactions, and a random parameter logit. The results show that individuals value primarily their ability to perform recreational activities, the ecological health of waterbodies, and aesthetic aspects (odour and visual aspects), in that order. Interestingly, the fact that people reported performing fishing activities influenced the way they prioritized ES in the choice modelling exercise. Based on the most robust model, we estimated a marginal willingness to pay of $353 per year in tax to finance mechanisms to resolve the algal bloom issue.