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United States Department of Agriculture

Agricultural Research Service

Title: Calculating the Cost of Reducing Erosion from a Small Rangeland Watershed 1513

Authors
item Heilman, Philip
item Duan, Y. - UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
item Miller, R. - UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA
item Guertin, D. - UNIVERSITY OF ARIZONA

Submitted to: First Interagency Conference on Research in the Watersheds
Publication Type: Proceedings
Publication Acceptance Date: July 15, 2003
Publication Date: October 27, 2003
Citation: Heilman, P., Duan, Y., Miller, R., Guertin, D.P. 2003. Calculating the cost of reducing erosion from a small rangeland watershed. Proceedings First Interagency Conference on Research in the Watersheds. Oct. 27-30, 2003, Benson, AZ., pp. 398-404.

Interpretive Summary: To be economically efficient, policies to control erosion and sediment should achieve required reductions in sediment at least cost. Efforts to develop Total Maximum Daily Load plans to improve water quality should consider the costs of erosion and sediment reduction methods. On rangelands, quantifying the scope of sediment reduction available through land management is difficult. As many ranches are already economically stressed, imposing additional costs to reduce erosion and sediment could drive some ranchers out of business. A constrained optimization model was built that simulates the effect of imposing a constraint to reduce watershed sediment yield. The model calculates a rancher's profit, erosion and sediment yield. A case study of the Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed is examined in which the entire watershed is modeled as a single ranch. Results for the case study indicate little scope to reduce erosion in the short run by cutting herd numbers without reducing the income of an already economically stressed enterprise.

Technical Abstract: Sediment is an important pollutant. Attempts to control sediment are under consideration for water bodies where sediment-affected water does not support designated uses. To be economically efficient, policies to control sediment should achieve required reductions in sediment at least cost. On rangelands, quantifying the scope of sediment reduction available through land management is problematic given the difficulty in quantifying sediment detachment, transport and deposition processes, and watershed runoff and sediment yield. As many ranches are economically stressed, imposing additional costs to reduce sediment could drive some ranchers out of business. A constrained optimization model was built that simulates the effect of imposing a constraint to reduce watershed sediment yield. The model calculates a rancher's net return subject to technology and soil detachment and sediment yield constraints. By varying the sediment constraints and solving the model multiple times, an abatement cost curve can be estimated. A case study of the Walnut Gulch Experimental Watershed is examined in which the entire watershed is modeled as a single ranch. Results indicate little scope to reduce erosion without reducing the income of an already economically stressed enterprise.

Last Modified: 8/22/2014
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