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Heterogeneous users and willingness to pay in an ongoing payment for watershed protection initiative in the Colombian Andes
Flat fees in payment for environmental services (PES) schemes promote administrative ease, and are perceived as egalitarian. However, when environmental-service (ES) buyers are heterogeneous in their income and water-consumption levels, this scheme may not be optimal, as total payments might become too low and services under-supplied. This paper estimates willingness to pay (WTP) higher fees from hydrological-service buyers in an ongoing PES initiative in an Andean watershed in Colombia, where small, flat user payments have been introduced. ES users fall into two highly heterogeneous categories: smallholder peasants and recreational-house owners. We perform a contingent valuation analysis in a representative sample of 218 households. For improved water services, ES buyers on average are willing to pay monthly about US$1 premium over current flat PES rate. Users’ heterogeneity, however, affects significantly this outcome: while recreational-house owners are willing to pay monthly on average US$1.61 more than the current fee, smallholders only US$0.41. Spatial variables, such as distance to the water distribution point and to the town center, importantly influence WTP. Results may help designing user-driven PES schemes in line with efficiency and equity objectives.