The urbanization of urban watersheds can influence flooding risks. Traditional Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) flood risk maps identify 100 year floodplains. These maps are updated infrequently. However, as a community urbanizes, flood risks can change, especially for downstream residents. Thus, one would expect that the willingness to pay (WTP) to prevent the worsening of flooding risk would depend in part on the location of the household in the community and their associated flooding risk. Economists and regional scientists have evaluated the role played by traditional demographic factors. However, attitudinal factors measuring community norms, political philosophy, and other psychological factors that may be unique to the individual have not received the same level of scrutiny.
Milwaukee, WI has experienced major flooding events, classified as floods with an expected frequency of once every 100 years or less, in 1986 and most recently in 1997 and 1998. In this study, 1000 residents of the Menomonee watershed in Milwaukee were interviewed in a two-wave panel survey (i.e., telephone interviews took place in 2000 and 2001) to determine their willingness to pay for a referendum which would prevent flood risks from worsening. The interviews queried respondents about their attitudes concerning flooding and ecological risks, political beliefs, information seeking behavior, and other psychological factors unique to the respondent. Information was also gathered on demographic characteristics of the respondent, and also that individuals address. The address was geocoded and hydrologic modeling was used to determine the unique flood risk associated with the residence. A willingness to pay function was estimated using Tobit analysis. Preliminary findings indicated that all three categories of factors influence willingness to pay, with psychological factors and flood risk factors having a relatively strong impact on willingness to pay.