Cost-Benefit Analysis of the Swiss National Policy on Reducing Micropollutants in Treated Wastewater

Contamination of freshwater with micropollutants (MPs) is a growing concern worldwide. Even at very low concentrations, MPs can have adverse effects on aquatic ecosystems and possibly also on human health. Switzerland is one of the first countries to start implementing a national policy to reduce MPs in the effluents of municipal sewage treatment plants (STPs). This paper estimates the benefits of upgrading STPs based on public’s stated preferences. To assess public demand for the reduction of the environmental and health risks of MPs, we conducted a choice experiment in a national online survey. The results indicate that the average willingness to pay per household is CHF 100 (US$ 73) annually for reducing the potential environmental risk of MPs to a low level. These benefits, aggregated over households in the catchment of the STPs to be upgraded, generate a total annual economic value of CHF 155 million (US$ 113 million). This compares with estimated annual costs for upgrading 123 STPs of CHF 133 million (US$ 97 million) or CHF 86 (US$ 63) per household connected to these STPs. Hence, a cost-benefit analysis justifies the investment decision from an economic point of view and supports the implementation of the national policy in the ongoing political discussion.