Credit River ecological services: Valued at $371 million annually
“One of the key aspects of valuing ecological services is the idea that Mother Nature does for free what we would otherwise have to pay millions to do through technology and infrastructure,” said Jeff Wilson of Credit Valley Conservation, the agency responsible for management of the watershed.
The watershed’s “natural capital” — the stock of natural assets, such as water, forests, wetlands and wildlife — provide the ecological services, including water filtration, removal of carbon from the atmosphere and air purification.
Looking at water and wastewater treatment alone, it would cost more than $237 million every year to replace the natural filtering power of land and wetlands in the Credit River Watershed with man-made water treatment systems.
The report, Natural Credit: Estimating the Value of Natural Capital in the Credit River Watershed, is intended to help people better understand the value of preserving and investing in natural spaces. In turn, it is important that the value of natural capital is accounted for when natural space is developed. Currently, when development happens, many of these costs are shifted to residents and taxpayers. Other lost value, like the loss of pollinators, simply cannot be replaced.
“Because the value of natural capital doesn’t show up on anyone’s balance sheet, we end up using ecological resources in very inefficient ways,” said Mike Kennedy, Senior Resource Economist with the Pembina Institute. “We are highlighting the importance of considering all social costs and benefits of land use policy decisions, especially when regions start to become highly populated.”
While this report looks specifically at the Credit River Watershed in the western Greater Toronto Area, the benefits of ecological services are similar for communities across Canada. The report’s authors consider it a call to all levels of government to give greater consideration to natural capital when making land-use decisions.
“There is increasing evidence that the benefits of conservation are beginning to outweigh the benefits of business-as-usual development,” said Wilson.