Research shows economic impact of water quality on tourism

June 22, 2021

Wendong ZhangA 2018 ISU study led by Wendong Zhang, assistant professor, estimated Iowa is losing out on about $30 million from Iowans who would pay more to visit cleaner lakes and rivers, according to a June 21 story in the Gazette

That estimate came from a 2014 statewide survey asking Iowans about their household trips to more than 100 in-state lakes. About 3,500 people responded to the survey. ISU researchers matched lake preferences with water clarity data collected by the university. 

The newest version of the Iowa lakes survey, done in 2019 and 2020, hasn’t been released yet by the state DNR, but Wendong Zhang, an assistant professor in economics from ISU, shared highlights Wednesday in a virtual presentation:

  • Nearly 28 percent, the largest share, of respondents said water quality was the most important factor when determining which lake to visit. The next highest factors were park activities and proximity, tied with 17.4 percent.
  • More than 70 percent said they check water quality before they go to the lake.
  • Respondents ranked agricultural runoff as the biggest contributor to poor water quality, followed by livestock manure
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