Value of bathing waters and influence of bathing water quality: final research report

Research aimed to provide socio-economic understanding of the value of Scottish bathing waters and the influence of bathing water quality (BWQ) to bathers, beach users and to the national and local economies.

6. What are the benefits (or costs) of an improvement (or deterioration) in bathing water quality classification?

6.1 Introduction

This chapter presents the results from the research project in relation to RQ3. The evidence review highlighted some findings of relevance to RQ3 that help to position the results presented in this Chapter in the context of the existing literature. Principally, this relates to evidence on the various categories and types of benefit provided by beaches, bathing waters and bluespaces (economic; health and wellbeing; and social and cultural benefits). Within the scope of the literature reviewed however (see standalone volume), evidence on specific monetised costs and benefits associated with a deterioration or improvement (i.e. a change) in BWQ was relatively sparse (eftec, 2002; Mourato et al., 2003; Cascade Consulting and eftec, 2009; Accent, 2010; eftec et al., 2014). Stronger evidence is available concerning the range of possible benefits (as identified empirically and / or theoretically) as opposed to any quantification of these benefits or analysis of correlation between benefits and BWQ (see Chapter 3). However, some studies have explored the benefits or costs of an improvement in BWQ, though not necessarily in monetary terms (Hanley et al., 2003; Nahman and Rigby, 2008; Coombes and Jones, 2010; McKenna et al., 2011; Hynes et al., 2013; Czajkowski et al., 2015; Gillespie et al., 2016). Other key findings from the evidence review include:

  • Across the literature reviewed, there is a common set of indicators used to measure the costs and benefits of a change (improvement) in BWQ. This includes a change in the number of visitors or the frequency of trips undertaken (Hanley et al., 2003; McKenna et al., 2011; Gillespie et al., 2016). Data on visitor numbers and frequency of trips (combined with other data on distance travelled, mode etc) provides the basis for the travel cost method (revealed preference). Gillespie et al. (2016) showed how a deterioration in BWQ will reduce the benefits gained from a site resulting in reduced trips / demand. Hanley et al. (2003) showed how 63% of respondents would visit a beach more frequently if BWQ improved;
  • In their South African study, Nahman and Rigby (2008) attempted to establish the difference between the impact of a change in BWQ (10% decline) as opposed to a change in the blue flag status of a beach (loss of status) on visitor numbers. The impact of the change in BWQ was more pronounced than the loss of Blue Flag status (39% reduction in visits versus 6%). Nahman and Rigby (ibid) also estimated the economic losses associated with these changes highlighting losses of £6-7 million per annum in relation to the 10% deterioration in BWQ; and
  • Stated preference methods such as choice experiments can be a useful means of measuring individuals’ willingness to pay ( WTP) to secure an improvement in BWQ (Hynes et al., 2013; Czajkowski et al., 2015). These methods have also been used to explore and monetise the health benefits associated with improvements in BWQ as a result of reduced risks to human health from bathing ( WHO, 2003). Mourato et al. (2003) estimated the marginal WTP for a 1% reduction in the risk of gastrointestinal illness across all bathing waters in England and Wales to be £1.10 per household per year. These value estimates were subsequently used by Cascade Consulting and eftec (2009) to estimate health benefits of compliance with rBWD microbial standards in Scotland at £5.8 million (over 25 years).

6.2 Quantitative results – onsite and online surveys

6.2.1 Costs and benefits of deterioration and improvements in BWQ

This analysis estimated the change in (aggregate) recreation value associated with a site failing to attain ‘sufficient’ status under the rBWD, stemming from reduced visitor numbers. The calculated reduction in recreation value provides a measure of benefits in terms of the avoided loss of value if the site attains sufficient status. The monetary value of benefits, that are derived by individuals from visits to bathing waters, is measured in terms of their WTP for access and recreation opportunities, which represents the surplus (net benefit) that individuals experience from recreational visits to bathing waters over and above the costs associated with those visits. WTP is interpreted as a minimum indication of how valuable the benefits of a visit are perceived to be, and the following results are therefore conservative Estimated WTP per visit is £8.90 (see Table 6.1) and is calculated based on individual travel cost models ( ITCM) explained previously in the method Chapter (and discussed further in Annex 2), which uses the onsite survey data. To put this into context, across the sample, on average, respondents make around 40 visits per year [23] . Applying the average travel cost per visit, this results in an average annual expenditure of £356 per respondent. Nearly equal to the average household water bill in Scotland (£351), this is not an insubstantial sum.

Table 6.1: Estimated WTP for recreation visits (£/visit), onsite survey data

‘Best fit model’ WTP (£/visit)
Overall £8.90

Table 6.2 below provides the estimated annual baseline recreational value [24] (= current annual visits × value per visit) by individual sites and visitor type. As shown, recreational values vary widely across sites from £0.9m – £6.1m, with Ayr and Gullane having the largest estimated value. As expected, recreational values are highest for local residents who visit the sites. Across all five sites the estimated annual recreation value is just under £13m.

Table 6.2: Baseline annual estimated recreational value (£m) by visitor type and study site, onsite survey data

Visitor type Study site  
Ayr Gullane Nairn Portobello Troon Total
Overnighters £0.4 £0.1 £0.3 £0.2 £0.1 £1.0
Day visitors £1.6 £0.9 £0.3 £0.6 £0.2 £3.7
Residents £4.1 £1.5 £0.5 £1.4 £0.6 £8.0
Total £6.1 £2.5 £1.0 £2.2 £0.9 £12.7

Note: Both Portobello and Nairn have two designated bathing waters, while this study only estimates values associated with one from each: Portobello (West); and Nairn (Central).

The benefits of meeting ‘sufficient’ status (i.e. not displaying advice against bathing) can be explored in annual terms as the avoided loss of recreation value. This is based on the stated reduction in visits reported by a small proportion of respondents and the value ( WTP) per visit (= reduction in visits × value per visit). Table 6.3 below presents the reduction in visits reported by respondents of the onsite and online survey. In total, 5% of onsite respondents and 29% of online respondents reported that seeing an advisory sign would change the number of times they would visit in the future. In terms of the number of visits, onsite survey respondents reported 700 fewer visits a year and online respondents nearly 4,000 fewer visits annually. This represents a reduction in visits of between 2% (onsite) and 35% (online) of the total estimated annual visits made by the survey samples.

As discussed in Section 5.2, the differences in reactions to seeing an advisory sign across the two survey samples may be due to subtle differences in the subject and framing of survey questions. Onsite respondents are asked to make decisions about the beach they visited on that day – a decision they made mostly without information on water quality. Online respondents are comprised of both users and non-users of bathing waters, and they are asked to make decisions based on future visits to a beach they rarely (or perhaps never for non-users) visit.

Table 6.3: Reported annual reduction in visits by onsite and online survey respondents

  Onsite (5% visitors say they would make fewer trips) Online (29% visitors say they would make fewer trips)
Reduction in visits - people visit less often 702 3,351
Reduction in visits - people no longer visit 12 458
Total reduction in visits 713 3,809
% of total visits by sample 2% 35%

The impact of advisory signs on the total annual visitor numbers (i.e. not only the survey sample) can be estimated by extrapolating the proportion of visits that will be reduced to the total estimated visits to the five sites. Table 6.4 below presents the results of this calculation, showing how the total estimated reduction in visits is between 22,000 and 360,000 per year. Applying the WTP per visit of £8.90, the estimated loss of recreation value due to a bathing advisory sign is between £0.2 million and £3.19 million per year.

Table 6.4: Estimated annual loss in recreation value



(5% of sample say they would make fewer trips)


(29% of sample say they would make fewer trips)

Estimated annual visits


% of visits lost



Total reduction in visits



Total loss of recreation value £m per year



Note: Annual visits based on SEPA data and adjustments have been made using Scottish coastal seasonality data (Great Britain Tourism Survey and Great Britain Day Visits Survey) to account for the potential impacts of the timing of the fieldwork on the annual outputs provided.

Based on analysis of the choice experiment responses, values for improvements in BWQ and beach characteristics – in terms of WTP per household and in total for national improvements – are presented in Table 6.5 below. Further model specifications are discussed in Annex 2. WTP for each attribute is determined by the ratio of the marginal utility associated with a one unit increase in the attribute and the marginal utility associated with a one unit increase in cost (i.e. in respondents’ water bill).

Table 6.5: Value of improvements in bathing water quality, online survey data

Willingness to pay ( WTP) estimates £ / household / year Total WTP £ million / year
National - number of Scottish beaches failing to meet water quality standards - 1% reduction (roughly 1 less beach failing of the 86 Scottish bathing waters) 0.93 (0.49 - 1.36) 2 (1 – 3)
Bathing water status – beach visited most often From ‘poor for 5 years’ to ‘sufficient’ 39.38 (31.89 – 46.87) -
From ‘poor for 5 years’ to ‘good’ 46.06 (36.96 – 55.16) -
From ‘poor for 5 years’ to ‘excellent’ 84.76 (53.14 – 116.39) -
Litter – 1% litter removed at beach visited most often 0.44 (0.25 – 0.62) -

Notes: Base: Choice experiment analysis (n=1,013). 95% confidence intervals in parenthesis (Delta method). Total WTP estimated using the total number of households in Scotland in 2016 of 2.45 million ( NRS, 2016).

As shown, the estimated WTP per household for improvements in BWQ at the beach visited most often increases with higher status levels. The greatest value is attached to ensuring a bathing water meets ‘excellent’ status, with the WTP for the shift from ‘poor for 5 years’ to ‘excellent’ of approximately £85. The additional value from achieving other status levels is relatively marginal. In particular, the value for the shift from ‘poor for 5 years’ to ‘sufficient’ (approximately £39) is not statistically different from the value for the shift from ‘poor for 5 years’ to ‘good’(approximately £46), as is shown in the overlapping 95% confidence intervals on Figure 6.1. Likewise the value for a shift from ‘good’ to ‘excellent’ is not statistically different, however shifting from ‘poor’ to ‘excellent’ is.

These results indicate that the subtle differences in BWQ that are achieved by shifting from ‘sufficient’ to ‘good’ may not be of particular value to visitors. It is reasonable to assume that because visitors can swim at both levels, the other water quality improvements achieved from ‘sufficient’ to ‘good’ and the benefits from this may be less apparent. The results also show that there is a premium for a site achieving ‘excellent’ status, and may be due to the additional awards (e.g. blue flag) that can be acquired at this status.

WTP for the number of Scottish beaches failing to meet water quality (1% reduction in bathing waters in Scotland failing) and WTP for one unit increase in litter removed (implies that 1% more beach litter is removed) are statistically significant, and are valued at £0.93 and £0.44 per household per year respectively.

Figure 6.1: Value of improvement in individual bathing water status, online survey

Figure 6.1: Value of improvement in individual bathing water status, online survey

The total WTP per year presented in the final column of Table 6.5 is calculated as the WTP per household multiplied by the number of household in Scotland ( NRS, 2016). As shown, reducing the number of Scottish beaches failing by 1% is associated with a value of £2 million per year. This value can be presented as an annualised benefit over a specified time horizon for use in decision-making, for example within policy appraisal and / or for comparison against the costs of achieving the reduction in beaches failing within a cost benefit analysis. The WTP values for bathing water status and litter are ‘per beach’ values and can be aggregated further based on a user population of a particular beach, but were not aggregated as part of this study.

6.2.2 Economic impact of advisory against bathing

As part of the onsite survey visitors were asked whether advisory against bathing signs would change the number of visits they make to survey sites, or whether they would stop visiting. The vast majority of respondents indicated that advisory signs and associated water quality implications would not change the number of visits they make. However, for the small proportion that would visit less frequently or discontinue visits, it is possible to estimate the impact in terms of lost expenditure from those visitors. In order to do this, it is necessary to calculate the average spend per visitor per day, which can then be applied to the reduction in visits.

Table 6.6 below presents estimated spend per person per day using survey data as compared to estimates using survey data along with supplementary national data (i.e. Great Britain Tourism Survey and Great Britain Day Visits Survey). As shown, expenditure estimates based on the onsite survey data alone are more conservative compared to those that also take into account national data. In subsequent calculations both estimates of daily expenditure are used in order to provide a range of potential loss in expenditure.

Table 6.6: Average spend per visitor per day (with supplementary national data comparison), onsite survey data

Visitor type Study site
Ayr Gullane Nairn Portobello Troon
Survey data Survey & Nat’l Survey data Survey & Nat’l Survey data Survey & Nat’l Survey data Survey & Nat’l Survey data Survey & Nat’l
Overnighters £39 £87 £27 £46 £35 £74 £28 £51 £29 £55
Day trippers £11 £43 £5 £18 £7 £28 £5 £19 £7 £26
Residents £4 £15 £2 £7 £3 £11 £2 £7 £2 £8

Based on the breakdown of average spend by visitor type across the sites (Table 6.6), Table 6.7 below presents the estimated average expenditure overall across all five survey sites.

Table 6.7: Average spend per visitor per day (with supplementary national data comparison) overall, onsite survey data

Visitor type Survey data Survey & Nat’l
Overnighters £32 £63
Day trippers £7 £27
Residents £3 £10

Note: Figures have been rounded to the nearest whole number.

As detailed at section 6.2.1, using onsite survey data, it is estimated that seeing an advisory sign would reduce the number of visits each year by just over 22,400 (see Table 6.4). Table 6.8 below presents a breakdown of the estimated reduction in visits by visitor type. This has been calculated by apportioning the reported reduction in visits by visitor type. For example, day trippers had the highest reported reduction in visits (58% of all visitors who reported they would change frequency of future visits) followed by local residents (35%), then overnighters (8%).

Table 6.8: Estimated reduced visits, onsite survey data

Visitor type Onsite survey
Total reduction in visits 22,436
Of which Local residents (35% of those who would change visit behaviour) 7,766
Of which day trippers (58% of those who would change visit behaviour 12,944
Of which overnighters (8% of those who would change visit behaviour) 1,726

Table 6.9 below presents a range of estimated loss in visitor expenditure per year to the local economy due to a decrease in visits by survey respondents (= estimated reduction in visits by visitor type x average spend per visit by visitor type across all sites). As shown, it is estimated that failing to meet sufficient status could result in lost visitor spend of between £169,100 and £535,900 each year. This is a high-level estimation, and once again, as the vast majority of respondents indicated advice against bathing would not impact the number of visits they make, the results are small compared to total annual expenditure. Nonetheless it is a useful relationship to explore, and can be updated in future to consider more significant impacts to visit numbers.

Table 6.9: Estimated annual loss in visitor expenditure (£/year), onsite survey data

Visitor type Average spend data used
Survey data Survey & national data
Overnighters 55,200 108,700
Day trippers 90,600 349,500
Residents 23,300 77,700
Total estimated loss of visitor spend per year 169,100 535,900

6.2.3 The impact of a deterioration of BWQ on the restorative benefits of bathing waters

In order to examine the impact of a perceived deterioration of BWQ on the restorative benefits of the beach environment multivariate analyses were carried out (t-test, ANOVA). For the onsite survey whilst the scenario ‘poor’ bathing quality environment was still rated positively in terms of being an environment where people were able to ‘rest, recover my ability and focus’ ( M = 7.58, SD = 1.98), this was still a significant drop from their ratings compared to the better quality environment ( M = 8.66, SD = 1.55). This was found to be a statistically significant drop in rating, t (515) = 14.002, p < .001, d = 0.55 (a medium effect). Similarly, for the online survey, the scenario ‘poor’ bathing quality environment was still rated positively in terms of being an environment where people are able to ‘rest, recover my ability and focus’ ( M = 6.42, SD = 2.31), this was still a significant drop from their ratings compared to the better quality environment ( M = 7.60, SD = 1.65). This was found to be a statistically significant drop in rating, t (963) = 16.09, p < .001, d = 0.51 (a medium effect). Figure 6.2 illustrates this for the onsite survey.

Further analyses were carried out to understand whether the activities that people are carrying out influences the relationship i.e. do the activities they do mediate this relationship? For the onsite survey a relationship was found between activity and drop in wellbeing: specifically, the drop in the wellbeing score was greater for those who had said they would undertake or had already undertaken a water-related activity during that visit. Specifically a mixed ANOVA found that as well as wellbeing ratings significantly dropping, F (1,514) = 211.25, p < .001, partial eta squared = .29 (medium effect) there was also a main effect for whether people intend to have contact with the water (Q13), F (1,514) = 6.02, p = .002, partial eta squared = .01 (small effect). This finding was not replicated in the online survey.

Figure 6.2: The self-reported change in wellbeing scores if water quality woud worsen (onsite survey)

Figure 6.2: The self-reported change in wellbeing scores if water quality woud worsen (onsite survey)

6.3 Qualitative results – focus groups

Opinions about the possible impact of an improvement or deterioration in bathing water quality classification were elicited by asking focus group participants and interviewees about two scenarios twenty years in the future:

  • In the first, there is real-time information about bathing water quality at beaches in Scotland. The bathing water quality at the beach is rated ‘excellent’ and this information is shown on a board at the beach. The bathing water quality at the beach compares well with other Scottish beaches; and
  • In the second, there is also real-time information about bathing water quality. The bathing water quality at the beach is rated ‘poor’ and this information is shown on a board at the beach.

For both scenarios, participants were asked in what ways, if at all, does this situation change conditions for them personally (and their businesses in the case of the business focus groups and interviews) and for the local community: does it open up new possibilities? does it create risks or problems?

6.3.1 General comments on rBWD classification

In several focus groups, participants commented that BWQ changes frequently, for example as a result of rainfall and that classifications applied to a whole season don’t reflect these changes. This comment was made in relation to the positive as well as the negative scenario:

"The water quality is not a constant. As we said earlier on, it depends on rainfall, outflow from farmland. So for instance Nairn could be bad this week and in a month’s time it could be good, because it depends on the weather. So Troon could be good or it might be excellent or it might be poorer. So if you take a broad view it’s not always going to stay the same" (Troon focus group participant)

6.3.2 Impacts of BWQ on feelings and behaviours

Participants in the community focus groups said that an improvement in BWQ classification would change how they felt and what they did. Several said that the ‘excellent’ classification would make them happy: "I’d just feel smug and happy that I lived in Troon" (Troon focus group participant). At Portobello, one participant thought that it would increase her sense of pride:

"And I think [...] so you would be really proud if you could say [...] the water quality at Portobello is excellent, it’s better than elsewhere, but just now it is a bit of a joke when you speak about Portobello" (Portobello evening focus group participant)

Focus group participants mentioned some ways in which behaviour might change if there were an improvement in BWQ, such as visiting the beach or going in the water more often:

"And I think the other thing is you’d like to think that if our water quality got better that we might see more wildlife and that would definitely make me want to get in the water more, seeing more things" (Gullane focus group participant)

"If it’s going to be excellent, surely if people are going to get this information they’re going to want to come here. It’s a no-brainer" (Nairn focus group participant)

Box 6.1: Conversation about implications of improved BWQ for open swimming at Portobello focus groups

"P1: It [improved BWQ] would get more people in the water potentially"

"P2: If that cleared up there I would definitely swim much more. At the moment
I swim laps down here, I swim up as far as Bath Street but I don’t ever go past that. But I would love to swim all the way up"

"P1" Yes, that’s very true"

(Discussion between Portobello swimmers focus group participants)

"I would definitely visit more. I would just go to Gullane instead because I know I can swim there and I know it’s going to be okay. But if I knew it was excellent [at Portobello] I’d be more likely to go here instead" (Portobello evening focus group participant)

Safety for children was mentioned in most of the focus groups as an important benefit of improved water quality and general cleanliness of beaches:

"I think we’d put our kids in. I think it’s a factor on how you put your children in the water and think about letting your children use the water, I think that’s more of a factor. Certainly a lot of parents who aren’t necessarily as water-knowledgeable as we might be because we’re actively interested in it, if they knew the beach was clean they wouldn’t be so worried about handing them over to me to give them surf lessons..." (Gullane focus group participant)

Open swimming is an increasingly important activity on the Scottish coasts and swimmers felt that improved bathing water quality could open up new possibilities as illustrated in Box 6.1 above.

Despite these potential benefits, several people mentioned other factors that influence their choice of beaches to visit which would not be affected by an improvement in BWQ:

"[Portobello West] is lovely if you’re actually on the beach [...] but in terms of facilities and anything to make it appealing, once you step off the beach it’s very, very bleak. For that reason I’m not sure excellent bathing water quality would attract me to that end of the beach" (Portobello evening focus group participant)

In response to a query about whether business would increase: "Probably not. People who are coming to my business are not coming to the beach. It is next to the beach but that is not what people come for" (Ayr focus group participant, B&B proprietor)

6.3.3 Impacts of BWQ on business

As illustrated in Box 6.2 below, most of the business focus group participants felt that improved BWQ would have positive effects on tourism, bringing more people to the area, and that would have positive knock on impacts for other local businesses.

Box 6.2: Conversation about implications of improved BWQ for business at Nairn and Ayr focus groups

"P1: I think it’s something else to sell, absolutely, it would have a positive impact"

"P2: We’d be able to have more events like water sports, we could encourage that"

"P1: Certainly [it would result in] more use of the water because you can boast about it and promote it"

"P2: It could only have a beneficial effect on the businesses"

(Discussion between Ayr business focus group participants)

"If the quality is excellent then it means we’ve got an easier job to sell Nairn as a destination, if we have to fight against negatives that makes the job that much harder" (Nairn business focus group participant)

6.3.4 Impacts of a deterioration in BWQ classification on feelings and behaviours

When asked to consider the second scenario of a deterioration in BWQ classification at the local beach, many focus group participants were quite upset at the thought. For many participants, the beach is part of their own and others’ identity and heritage:

"…there’s generations of people in Glasgow whose grandparents always came to Troon, that’s where they went. So that would be damaged as well, a lot of people would be really upset about the fact that their childhood memories were destroyed when they came down if the beach quality [was poor]" (Troon focus group participant)

However, many non-swimmers felt that the change would have little impact on their own behaviours and activities:

"Even if the water quality is not good […] it’s not going to stop you walking on the beach or appreciating the view or the sand" (Troon focus group participant)

There was general agreement that a deterioration in bathing water quality classification would have a negative impact on the development of water sports projects and businesses:

"The project that I’m involved in with the water sports centre [...] we’ve already had discussions with a not-for-profit company, a charity, who wants to come up here and deliver stand up paddling. That wouldn’t happen if the water quality was constantly going to be poor. So from an economic point of view [...] it is vital to tourism and to the economy, the quality of the water, because this sort of things couldn’t happen. You wouldn’t send your kids to a beach to do any water sports if you thought there’s a risk of them coming away with some sort of…" (Troon focus group participant)

"…they’re looking at the west coast of Scotland as being a massive marine tourism destination from Inverkip all the way down, Largs marina, a big investment is going on, if it’s all linked in and tied in and people want to be able to enjoy the water and do the water sports etc. would those investments be happening if they felt that people were not going to be able to get wet or not happy to get wet and not wanting little kids falling in off their skis and probably gulping lots of water? The PR aspect of it could be massive" (Ayr focus group participant)

The scenario of a deterioration in BWQ classification made many people ask how the situation might be allowed to get to such a state. In several places it was suggested that if this scenario did happen in practice, there would be an outcry from the local community:

"The other thing about Troon is we’ve got such vocal and proud people living in the town that it’s something we wouldn’t put up with for long. As you say, gobby residents would be on the backs of the Community Council and the Council and SEPA saying ‘get this right, it’s not good enough" (Troon focus group participant)

"We’ve always got the beauty of the bay and the area, the perception and the aesthetics of it probably wouldn’t change from this. But I think it would affect how we see it and there would certainly be some strong opinions viewed, I’m sure, within the community" (Gullane focus group participant)

"I think the whole of Ayr would be up in arms if we thought that sign was going to be slapped on Ayr, that the water is not of a quality where people should be going into it. I think they would be really up in arms because they would take it as a personal thing, it again goes back to their identify as a town and it’s hugely important that it’s perceived to be accessible and clean and healthy" (Ayr focus group participant)

6.4 Discussion and synthesis

6.4.1 Deterioration in BWQ may impact the quality of visits if not the quantity

Results from the analysis of onsite survey data show how the economic value of a loss of recreation value due to a deterioration in BWQ is relatively small. This is because in the event of an advisory against bathing, only a small proportion of respondents would change their behaviour to the extent that they would not visit the site (i.e. the number of people affected and therefore the aggregate recreation value they receive from visiting the bathing water site is relatively small). Despite this, further analysis of the survey data using multivariate statistics showed how perceived BWQ is a key predictor of health and wellbeing outcomes linked to the restorative nature of beaches and bathing waters. In essence, the restorative value of a visit decreases as perceptions of BWQ decrease also.

So, although a deterioration in BWQ will not necessarily affect the quantity of visits to a bathing water site, it can affect the quality in terms of a reduction in the restorative benefits received by visitors. As outlined in Chapter 4, this may be because people would still visit the beach but not enter the water (around half of the survey respondents indicated that this would be their behaviour), which may be important in terms of the restorative benefits received. This finding is in line with other studies that have investigated the impact of changes (deterioration) in BWQ (including wider notions of beach cleanliness) on the perceived restorative qualities of bathing waters (Hipp and Ogunseitan, 2011; Wyles et al., 2016). Further, the calculations of lost recreation value due to people no longer visiting the beach in the case of advisory against bathing do not account for the health costs associated with increased illness due to contact with contaminated water.

6.4.2 Focus group participants are more affected by a deterioration in BWQ than survey respondents

As discussed above, results from the onsite survey suggest that the cost of a deterioration in BWQ would be relatively small. However, this is in sharp contrast to results from the focus groups given the strength of feeling during discussions around the impact of a deterioration in BWQ. Although ‘strength of feeling’ and ‘costs due to loss of recreation value’ are clearly quite different indicators, this finding shows how a place-based, contextualised perspective (i.e. from the local residents / businesses in the focus group setting) can influence the values people place on natural assets, such as bathing waters. Also, the focus group setting gives participants more time and space to reflect on the issues and draw out a more reasoned response to the scenario (i.e. a deterioration in BWQ) than may be the case during the administration of a survey instrument. Another factor, however, concerns the nature of the focus group participants who were all local residents or local business owners. Most likely these people will have greater place-attachment (to the site) and therefore may have stronger feelings / responses to a hypothetical deterioration in BWQ. Notwithstanding this, the surveys and focus groups are different yet complementary research tools and the different results should be considered with this in mind.


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