Masters Theses

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Wildlife and Fisheries Science

Major Professor

Neelam Poudyal

Committee Members

Omkar Joshi, Brian Alford


Recent droughts in Northwestern Oklahoma have sparked competition among stakeholders for alternative uses of a public water resource. Canton Reservoir, an auxiliary water supply for Oklahoma City (OKC), has been called upon to support the growing need for municipal water use. Unforeseen and indirect consequences of these drought/drawdown conditions have been experienced by the visitors that depend on the reservoir for a variety of outdoor recreation uses. Economic analysis presented in this thesis employed an individual travel cost method (TCM) of non-market valuation to characterize the net benefit of recreation access at Canton under 2018/2019 (full pool) conditions. Subsequently, the change in recreational demand and benefit estimates were conducted under hypothetical drought conditions by employing a pooled dataset that combined revealed preference (RP) and contingent behavior (CB) data. Aggregation of benefit estimates for the entire population of Canton users yielded $7.7 million in net benefit under the 2018/2019 (full pool) conditions, which signifies the magnitude of economic value associated with recreational access to Canton. Further analysis of contingent behavior showed a 45 percent reduction in this value, attributable to potential drawdown or drought conditions. The findings suggest that water level is one of the most important factors shaping recreation demand at Canton and highlight the extent of the impact future water decisions may have on user welfare and the recreation community. Next, this thesis assessed visitors’ sense of place (SOP) at Canon Reservoir, and evaluated how sense of place related with the acceptability of alternative strategies of water allocation between municipal supply and recreational use on-site. The results show that Canton Reservoir users have a high level of place attachment with the reservoir and support protective, conservation-oriented water v allocation strategies. The three psychological components of SOP (place identity, place dependence, and place attachment) were significantly related with visitors’ support for water allocation strategies that favored retention of water on-site or sought a fair distribution between recreation and municipal use. Stakeholders (i.e. recreation users, resource managers, and regional planners) may find this information useful in making informed decisions regarding future water allocation at Canton and other similar reservoirs.

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