Exploring the Value of Clean and Safe Drinking Water to Northern Irish Adults

Hannah Blair , Kieran Higgins

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Unlike many other countries, Northern Ireland residents do not pay separate water charges and there has been significant political and social controversy about their introduction. Therefore, this paper explores how Northern Ireland
residents value access to clean, safe drinking water. Using the open-ended contingent valuation method, 205 adults were asked to provide their annual willingness-to-pay to maintain their current level of service provision, their willingness-to-accept to have it taken away, and their willingness-to-give to ensure similar service provision in a developing country. The results show
that the value of clean, safe drinking water to Northern Irish adults is £120 per year, far less than both the real cost of provision, or the nominal amount paid through other combined charging instruments, demonstrating that said level of access to water is significantly undervalued by the Northern Irish people. Education levels and gender were found to be statistically significant predictors of willingness-to-pay and willingness-to-accept, respectively. Participants appeared to value their own access slightly more than that of people in developing countries, but not significantly more. The protest zeros observed
throughout this study identified participants’ resistance to change. The results suggest introducing water charges in NI will continue to be a fraught process, with significant difficulty accepting rates set.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)186-194
Number of pages9
JournalSocial Sciences
Issue number5
Publication statusPublished - 20 Oct 2020


  • Northern Ireland
  • water charges
  • contingent valuation
  • Willingness to pay
  • willingness to accept
  • willingness to give

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Economics and Econometrics


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