Economic evaluation of water loss saving due to the biological control of water hyacinth at New Year’s Dam, Eastern Cape province, South Africa
Water hyacinth Eichhornia crassipes is considered the most damaging aquatic weed in the world. However, few studies have quantified the impact of this weed economically and ecologically, and even fewer studies have quantified the benefits of its control. This paper focuses on water loss saving as the benefit derived from biological control of this plant between 1990 and 2013 at New Year’s Dam, Alicedale, Eastern Cape, South Africa. Estimates of water loss due to evapotranspiration from water hyacinth vary significantly; therefore, the study used three different rates, high, medium and low. A conservative raw agriculture value of R 0.26 per m3 was used to calculate the benefits derived by the water saved. The present benefit and cost values were determined using 10% and 5% discount rates. The benefit/cost ratio at the low evapotranspiration rate was less than one, implying that biological control was not economically viable but, at the higher evapotranspiration rates, the return justified the costs of biological control. However, at the marginal value product of water, the inclusion of the costs of damage to infrastructure, or the adverse effects of water hyacinth on biodiversity, would justify the use of biological control, even at the low transpiration rate.
Keywords: benefit/cost ratio, discount rate, evapotranspiration rate