Demand for an Environmental Public Good in the Time of COVID-19: A Statewide Water Quality Referendum

George Parsons, Laura Paul, and Kent Messer

Abstract: Due to COVID-19, many households face hardship — unemployment, an uncertain economic future, forced separation, and more. At the same time, the number of people participated in outdoor recreation is reported to be on the rise, as it was one of the few activities still permitted. How these experiences affect the public’s willing to pay for environmental public goods is unknown. During the pandemic, we conducted a stated preference survey to value statewide water quality improvements in Delaware. While a majority of participants report experiencing hardship of some sort (economic, emotional, etc.), mean household WTP declined by only 7% post-COVID. Based on our results, legislation being debated at the time of the outbreak passes a benefit-cost test (and majority vote) either pre- or post-COVID.