Poor water clarity is costing Manitowoc County property owners money. An assessment commissioned by Manitowoc County Lakes Association, conducted by Drs. Wolf and Kemp of the University of Wisconsin-Eau Claire, and supported by the Wisconsin Department of Natural Resources, has demonstrated that lake water clarity directly impacts the property value of residences on that water body. The report concludes:
“… that a 1 meter increase in water clarity will result in a 10.5% increase in home values for properties located within 250 meters of a lake.”
Conversely, the more water clarity is degraded, the more property values are reduced. A hypothetical one meter increase in water clarity would add $30,840,000 to property values of residences associated with the Manitowoc County lakes.
The study analyzed 8,372 property transactions which occurred between 2013 and 2016 in Manitowoc and adjacent counties. They then correlated sales prices to the W-DNR satellite data for water clarity in the associated lake. Utilizing Hedonic Modeling, a technique to estimate the value of a specific attribute within a larger set of attributes which characterize a data set, the researchers isolated the impact of water clarity from all the other factors influencing a home’s value. The result clearly documents that water clarity is a significant determinate of property values. The study did not address any added value to a lake for recreational users or any subjective benefits which would derive from the higher water quality.
Clean lakes are important to Manitowoc County. A survey conducted by the Manitowoc County Soil and Water Conservation Department ranked area lakes second among the resources most important to protect and improve, behind only groundwater. Yet several County lakes are listed as impaired waters by the EPA, primarily due to excessive levels of phosphorus (P). Phosphorus feeds algae growth, which reduces water clarity. As one pound of phosphorous will generate 500 pounds of algae, it is clear why the same survey noted above ranked chemical and nutrient runoff to streams and lakes as the highest concern for the Soils and Water Conservation Department.
The impact of water clarity on home prices study proposes a clear economic rationale for reducing phosphorus runoff and improving water quality in Manitowoc County lakes.
- Read the assessment in its entirety (PDF): Manitowoc Lake Water Clarity and Property Value Report.pdf
- View The Impact of Water Clarity on Home Prices PowerPoint presentation by John Durbrow, MCLA president (2016-2017), presented at the April 25, 2019 MCLA meeting.