Author (Your Name)

Sophie D. Sarkar, Colby College

Date of Award


Document Type

Honors Thesis (Open Access)


Colby College. Environmental Studies Program


Philip J. Nyhus

Second Advisor

F. Russell Cole

Third Advisor

Whitney King


Hedonic property valuations in Maine have estimated that a one-meter decrease in water clarity can reduce shoreline property values by 4 to 16%. To avoid a loss on their lakefront investment, shoreline property owners have a particularly large incentive to conserve lake water quality. Nevertheless, while some shoreline residents voluntarily install vegetated buffers and actively participate in lake stewardship, others continue to ignore shoreline zoning laws at the expense of lake health. In this thesis, I examine the dichotomy of active and indifferent shoreline residents by analyzing the motivations that distinguish residents who are willing to pay (WTP) for and participate in lake conservation from those who are not.

Using two of Maine’s Belgrade lakes (East Pond and North Pond) as case studies, I designed a contingent valuation (CV) survey to elicit shoreline residents’ willingness to pay (WTP) for conservation projects that protect and improve water quality. I then assessed four broad categories of potential determinants of WTP, including lake association membership, demographic characteristics, lake water quality, and perceptions of lake water quality. These categories represent some of the motivators of environmental stewardship defined in past studies by environmental psychologists, managers, and economists (Cooper et al. 2004; Bateman et al. 2006; Story and Forsyth 2008; Del Saz-Salazar et al. 2009; Steg and Vlek 2009; Kreutzwiser et al. 2011). In combination, my analysis begins to create a model for "buffernomics", the study of how much and why residents are willing to pay for lake conservation (e.g. vegetated buffers) that will either maintain or improve lake water quality. In this model, buffers are the currency used to buy water quality improvements.

The rest of this paper is organized as follows. I first review past studies on proenvironmental behavior and contingent valuations of lake and river water quality, and summarize the research questions that remain unanswered. I then describe my case studies (East Pond and North Pond), including their historical water quality and demographic profiles. Next, I present my methodology and survey design, which is followed by a summary of the results of my survey of shoreline residents. Finally, I present my conclusions and discuss recommendations for watershed conservation groups, lake associations, and lake-town municipalities in Maine.


Belgrade Lakes, water quality, algal levels, lake conservation

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