Cost-effectiveness of erosion mitigation to meet water clarity targets in the Manawatū-Whanganui Region of New Zealand

Maksym Polyakov, Patrick Walsh, Adam Daigneault, Simon Vale, Chris Phillips, Hugh Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Soil erosion is a significant environmental issue worldwide. It affects water quality, biodiversity, and land productivity. New Zealand government agencies and regional councils work to mitigate soil erosion through policies, management programmes, and funding for soil conservation projects. Information about cost-effectiveness is crucial for planning, targeting, and implementing erosion mitigation to achieve improvements in sediment-related water quality. While there is a good understanding of the costs of erosion mitigation measures, there is a dearth of literature on their cost-effectiveness in reducing sediment loads and improving water quality at the catchment level. In this study, we estimate the cost-effectiveness of erosion mitigation measures in meeting visual water clarity targets. The analysis utilizes the spatially explicit SedNetNZ erosion process and sediment budget modelling in the Manawatū-Whanganui Region and region-specific mitigation costs. The erosion mitigation measures considered in the analysis include afforestation, bush retirement, riparian retirement, space-planted trees, and gully tree planting. We modelled two scenarios with on-farm erosion mitigation implemented across the region from 2021 to 2100, resulting in a 48% and 60% reduction of total sediment load. We estimate the marginal costs to achieve the visual national bottom line for water clarity, as assessed by the length of waterways that meet the clarity targets. We also estimate the marginal costs of improving average water clarity, which can be linked with non-market valuation studies when conducting a cost-benefit analysis. We find that gully tree planting and space-planted trees are the most cost-effective mitigation measures and that riparian retirement is the least cost-effective. Moreover, cost-effectiveness is highly dependent on current land use and the biophysical features of the landscape. Our estimates can be used in cost-benefit analysis to plan and prioritize soil erosion mitigation at the catchment and regional levels.

Original languageEnglish
Article number120991
JournalJournal of Environmental Management
Publication statusPublished - May 2024


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