Researchers to study cost benefits of Gulf water monitoring

The vast array of water-monitoring systems in the Gulf of Mexico have some worth to federal agencies that use the data to produce things such as weather forecasts and to businesses that use the information gathered by those systems.

Figuring out the worth of the monitoring systems is the focus of a three-year, $750,000 project led by the LSU Agricultural Center and the federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management.

“There’s this massive array of data collected out there,” said Rich Kazmierczak, professor of resource economics with LSU Agricultural Center, and one of the researchers working on the project.

The first phase will involve interviewing key members of the Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System to determine who uses the information and what value they put on the information.

The Gulf of Mexico Coastal Ocean Observing System is a quasi-governmental group that receives funding from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and is governed by a regional board that includes representatives from private businesses, governmental agencies and universities.

This group pulls together information from the various monitoring stations across the northern Gulf of Mexico, from both governmental and privately run stations, then releases that data for public use.

“They serve as a data clearinghouse,” Kazmierczak said.

In addition, Kazmierczak said, they will be looking at the economic value of water-monitoring work by businesses that take the free initial data, perform additional analysis, then repackage the information for sale to specific groups.

An example of this would be a commercial fisherman who needs to decide whether it’s worth traveling to a certain area. These companies sell the information from the observing system that the fishermen needs.

“In economics, the attempts to value information are kind of scarce. There’s not much out there,” Kazmierczak said.

After the study is completed, he said, those seeking additional federal funding to expand the system of water monitoring in the Gulf of Mexico should be able to show whether an expansion is a good investment.