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The Cultural Value Of Suds: Non-monetary Dimensions For Storm Water Management Systems

Congress: 2015
Author(s): Roshni Jose, Rebecca Wade
UWTC, Abertay University, Dundee, UK. DD1 1HG1

Keyword(s): Sub-theme 14: Valuing water: monetary and non-monetary dimensions,

Key words: Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS), Ecosystem Services, Cultural Services, Greenspace, Public Participatory GIS (PPGIS)


A key aspect of non-monetary dimensions for storm water management systems are the cultural ecosystem services which help describe the social acceptability and desirability of these systems. According to the Millennium Ecosystem Assessment (2005), Cultural services (CS) are the nonmaterial benefits people obtain from ecosystems through spiritual enrichment, cognitive development, reflection, recreation and aesthetic experiences (Milcu, 2013). The UK National Ecosystem Assessment (UKNEA 2011) states that ecosystem CS are the environmental settings which provide the cultural goods and benefits humans obtain from ecosystems. This paper describes the cultural services provided by Sustainable Urban Drainage Systems (SUDS). In order to understand the non-monetary dimension of SUDS the cultural goods and benefits associated with them must be understood. Cultural services contribute to the amenity side of SUDS triangle as they have high potential to improve biodiversity and amenity values. SUDS are often associated with greenspace which has been reported to provide social and cultural benefits essential for mental and physical well-being, social cohesion, biodiversity etc. (UKNEA 2011; Gomez-Baggethun and Barton 2013). For this reason it is important to understand how SUDS contribute to these values and to assess the benefits and services they provide.


For the research reported here a variety of methodologies have been used to identify cultural services: These are 1) Visual assessment method; 2) Public perception survey; 3) Public Participatory Geographical Information Systems (PPGIS).

The study was carried out at DEX (Dunfermline Eastern Expansion), Scotland which is a well-established site with new and mature SUDS. The SUDS sites considered in this study includes a wetland, four ponds, two detention basins and a swale system.

The visual assessment provided an initial observation-based analysis of the potential for ecosystem services at each SUDS location. This was carried out through repeated field visits and collection of photographic evidence. A more in-depth assessment of cultural benefits from SUDS was acquired with the public perception survey. 500 public perception questionnaires were posted to houses located near SUDS. The questionnaire provided public perception data on; attitude and access to greenspace and SUDS, SUDS benefits and services, indication of willingness to pay, understanding of SUDS, and demographic information. In addition to these methods a face-to-face interactive mapping (PPGIS) session was carried out at a local community centre. This session provided an opportunity to explore in more depth the greenspace preference of residents in the area, and provided a 'cross-check' on the results obtained by questionnaire survey. In the PPGIS session a 'traffic-light' system was used; Green flag for 'good', yellow for 'ok' and red to indicate a dislike or 'bad' impression of an area.

Results and discussion

Results from the visual assessment method indicated that SUDS have the potential to deliver cultural services such as; educational benefits, aesthetics, recreation and biodiversity. In the next stage of the research 89 households responded to the public perception survey. Most respondents were young families and middle aged residents. It is considered that these groups are prevalent in the demographic of the area and also that they chose to respond because they consider that greenspace is valuable. Results show that 28% of respondents visit greenspace every day, 44% of respondents prefer shrubs and trees compared to grassed area(21%), ponds(10%). SUDS terminology was familiar to 62% of respondents and 67% responded that ponds provide biodiversity and habitat. Willingness to pay is high and 56% of respondents stated that it was desirable to have a property near SUDS, even if the house price was greater at a SUDS location. In addition, the presence of greenspace in the area was seen as a major factor for location choice (according to 36% of respondents), second only to commuting to work(41%) as main reason for location preference.

A multinomial logistic regression analysis was established from the survey responses to further analyse the data, particularly to distinguish responses from people in relation to their reported access (visits) to each SUDS feature. For example in relation to the wetland, people who visited the area recorded pet walking as main benefit, followed by recreation and aesthetics. The statistical significance of these responses was calculated and compared with other SUDS locations and access/visit responses from the data collected.

The results from the PPGIS shows that participants have a general preference for greenspace with 27% of the participants giving the wetland a good score whereas 10% gave one of the ponds and basins (Linburn) a bad score. Specific preferences and dislikes were reported during the PPGIS session. Biodiversity, feeding swans, ducks and other birds, pet walking, lovely view, open area, playing park etc. are the main benefits mentioned by participants who considered wetland (as reported by 74% of residents who participated) on the other hand; pylons, muddy areas and dog faeces were the reasons given by participants for allocating a bad score to the same area.


The research reported here confirms that for one area in Scotland SUDS provide social and cultural value. The data from this study helps to tease out the connection of SUDS with greenspace and the associated ecosystem service goods and benefits (including mental and physical well-being, social cohesion, biodiversity etc) that those urban spaces provide. Biodiversity and habitat were considered by participants of this research as the main benefits provided by SUDS however, aesthetics, pet walking and recreational benefits are statistically significant. Helfield and Diamond (1997) mentioned that wildlife is one of the main benefits of vegetated SUDS and this can be confirmed from this study.Willingness to pay for SUDS (as reported here) shows that people value SUDS as an integral component of urban greenspace and the results of this work also confirm similar conclusions from previous studies (Bastien 2011).

SUDS at DEX are rich in flora and fauna. They provide multi-functional benefits in the context of ecosystem services assessment and valuation. Through assessment with multiple methodologies and taking account of the perception of local residents it is possible to make a more complete ecosystem service assessment, particularly in relation to cultural ecosystem services and the non-monetary values provided by SUDS.
1. Bastien, N.R.P., Arthur, S. And McLoughin, M.J. (2011) Valuing amenity: public perceptions of sustainable drainage systems ponds. Water and Environmental Journal. CIWEM. 26: pp. 19-29. doi:10.1111/j.1747-6593.2011.00259.x 2. Gomez-Baggethun, E. and Barton, D.N. (2013) Classifying and valuing ecosystem services for urban planning. Ecological Economics. 86. pp: 235-245
3. Helfield, J.M. and Diamond, M.L. (1997) Use of constructed wetlands for Urban Stream Restoration: A Critical Analysis. Environmental Management. 21(3): pp. 329-341

4. MEA. (2005) Ecosystems and Human Well-being A Framework for Assessment. Island Press. Washington D.C.

5. Milcu, A. et. al. (2013) Cultural ecosystem services: a literature review and prospects for future research . Ecology and Society 18(3):44.

6. UKNEA. (2011) The UK National Ecosystem Assessment: Technical Report. UNEP-WCMC. Cambridge.

This research was funded by SORSAS (Scottish Overseas Research Student Award Scheme). I would also like to acknowledge Duloch Leisure centre and Dunfermline Community Council for their support.

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