Joel Dalberger

Joel Dalberger

Joel is an aspiring water professional currently working for multi-disciplinary design firm McGregor Coxall in Sydney. Working for geotechnical consultancies in Sydney and Fiji, combined with international programs in Vietnam and India, he has developed strong understanding of the major environmental and water management issues facing cities and communities in both developed and developing countries. Joel is a 2019 Ken Thiess Memorial Scholarship recipient, awarded to support his final year Masters of Integrated Water Management project. This project has seen him conduct an extensive and important environmental economics investigation of the controversial raising of Warragamba Dam in western Sydney.

Dammed If You Do, Damned If You Don’t – Valuation Of Environmental And Indigenous Heritage Conservation Vs. Flood Protection: The Case Of Warragamba Dam

At the core of many infrastructure projects is conflict between conservation of the natural environment and economic benefits derived from infrastructure expansion to accommodate the needs of growing populations. This is highlighted in the case of Australia’s Warragamba Dam, where it is proposed to increase the height of the dam wall for flood mitigation in towns and urban growth centres of western Sydney in the downstream floodplain. The proposed dam raising will result in negative impacts for areas upstream of the dam including protected conservation areas and national parks, home to pristine natural environments, endangered species, and indigenous heritage sites. To date, the monetary value of these natural environments and indigenous heritage sites has not been quantified, thus not included in the current cost-benefit analysis for the project. Through application of the total economic value framework and implementation of a unique two-way contingent valuation (CV) survey the research aims to quantify these critical, but currently overlooked, values and investigate where society stands in the trade-off between environmental and cultural heritage conservation and flood mitigation.

Using Warragamba Dam as a case study, the research will estimate societal willingness to pay (WTP) of (i) conserving environmental and indigenous  heritage assets, and (ii) flood mitigation. It will investigate if society places higher value on conservation/heritage or on flood protection, where the two outcomes are mutually exclusive. The results of CV survey will be used to evaluate how inclusion of these societal valuations influence cost-benefit analysis and consider policy implications that follow from determining the direction and scale of stated societal preferences. This original piece of research will make a useful contribution to the fields of integrated water management and environmental economic valuation applied in the unique context of flood mitigation, indigenous heritage, endangered species and state, national and internationally significant conservation areas.

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