Rain’s Ecosystem Service Value

The Columbia River Gorge’s Eagle Creek Fire will be history as about 5 inches of rain are forecast to fall within the next several days. Tongue-in-cheek, we can calculate the ecosystem service value of rain by analyzing the avoided cost of an alternative delivery vehicle — the Global Supertanker.

Five inches of rain delivered across the Eagle Creek Fire’s 48,387 acres is 6.6 billion gallons. The Supertanker can dump about 20,000 gallons per sortie, and, if a sufficient airfield is nearby, can perform about seven sorties per day at a daily rate of $250,000 (note that these calculations are for dumping water, not retardant, which would add a couple of bucks per gallon to the cost). It would take the Supertanker about 47,000 days to dump the equivalent of 5 inches of rain at a cost of $10 billion and change.

Ahh, blissful, beautiful, cheap free rain!

One Comment

  1. Andy – I sense you implying that we humans not invest in fire suppression as much and learn to rely on natural forces around us to help out out fires (rain, terrain, etc.). I’m actually not being sarcastic here…just trying to understand the implications of your post. I appreciate the math calculations to understand context.

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