Sunday, October 16, 2016: 12:15 PM
The objective of this study is to examine how measures of socioeconomic background, social capital and media exposure influence the willingness-to-pay (WTP) for water quality improvement. The primary supplier of tap water in Northeast Florida is the not-for-profit community-owned utility, JEA, - created by the City of Jacksonville to serve those who live in Duval County, Florida, as well as for parts of neighboring St. Johns, Nassau, and Clay counties. JEA provides approximately 114 million gallons of water each day to more than 240,000 customers. Using water quality data from multiple sources between 2005 and 2009, the Environmental Working Group deemed the water supply in Jacksonville the 10th worst in the country (McIntyre 2011). The effect of this ongoing debate over tap water quality in Jacksonville, fueled by media coverage of safety concerns, can be represented in a multidimensional preference matrix for drinking water quality among residents. Bottled water is both an expensive and environmentally hazardous alternative. Therefore, an improved understanding of the household WTP for improved drinking water quality and its determinants can provide important insights for the municipal planning process leading to both economic and environmental benefits. With the support of the Environmental Center and in association with the Public Opinion Research Lab, both at the University of North Florida, we conducted a telephone survey during February 2016 that resulted in a sample size of 618 households. Using this data, we (1) estimate residents’ monetary valuation for the improvement in tap water quality, (2) examine the influence of social capital and other socioeconomic factors on the demand for bottled water and WTP, and (3) explore how the media attention has influenced the demand for bottled water and WTP.