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Thomas C. Brown

Economist
Phone: 970-295-5968


Current Research

(1) Assessment of risk of water quality impairment in the over 15,000 fifth-level watersheds of the contiguous 48 states. (2) Estimates future water demand in the coterminous US, including specification of the effect of climate change on water demand. (3) Vulnerability of future US water supply to shortage, based on a comparison of supply and demand in light of climate change. (4) The effect of climate change on wildfire extent and sediment yield in the Southern Rockies Ecosystem. (5) Public perception of the relative importance of mitigation versus adaptation in responding to expected climate change.

Research Interests

My research focuses on methodology for economic valuation of natural resources; and on the environmental, economic, and institutional aspects of water resource management. Next steps will focus on refining the estimates of the effect of demographic and climatic changes on water demand and supply, and on assessing the public's understanding of likely climatic and demographic changes and willingness to trade off adaptation versus mitigation in dealing with such changes.

Past Research

Climate change is very likely to both increase water demand and decrease water supply. This combination of effects, along with the impact of human population increase on water demand, will increase the vulnerability of water supplies to shortage, and will also lead to decreases in instream flow available to aquatic species and for other instream uses. These changes will not occur uniformly across the landscape; rather, some areas will be affected much more heavily than others. Although considerable uncertainty remains about the exact degree of change that will occur, it is critical for policy makers and water resource planners to have the best available site-specific estimates of the extent to which these changes are likely to occur. This effort aims to provide such estimates within a probabilistic framework using methods consistently applied across the US.Water quality is a continuing national concern. Although point sources of pollution are largely contained pursuant to the Water Quality Act, nonpoint sources of water pollution remain mainly uncontrolled and policy makers continue to consider ways to reduce nonpoint sources. This research seeks to inform the policy formation process by providing a fine-scale national picture of the relative risks of water quality impairment from nonpoint sources, indicating where the greatest risks are faced.

Why This Research is Important

(1) An authored book Instream Flow Protection: Seeking a Balance in Western Water Use on the law, policy, history, and economics of water management in the Western United States. (2) A co-edited book A Primer on Nonmarket Valuation on the various methods now used to estimate the economic value of ecosystem goods and services. (3) Estimates of the amount of the US water supply that originates from the national forests, from forests in general, and within each major watershed. (4) Development and application of the method of paired comparison for use in assessing public values and preferences for ecosystem goods and services.

Education

  • American University, Washington, DC, BA Economics, 1968
  • University of Arizona, MS Water Management, 1973
  • University of Arizona, Ph.D. Economics, 1983

Featured Publications & Products

Publications & Products

Research Highlights

HighlightTitleYear


RMRS-2011-22
A close comparison of the condition of watersheds on our National Forests

Given the continuing concern over nonpoint-source pollution, researchers sought to understand how the risk of water quality impairment from nonp ...

2011


Last updated on : 09/30/2014