Evaluating the Transformation of Urban River Water Quality from Receiving Urban Sewage to a Leisure Venue through an Economic Lens: A Case Study from Tokyo

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Although environmental sustainability provides a foundation for maintaining economic and social sustainability, it is often neglected in favor of economic sustainability. Ameliorating water impairment is costly, and policymakers do not always prioritize this problem because its economic benefits are often intangible. This study explored the potential economic value for Tokyo’s regional economy of past improvements in the water quality of its rivers. Transitioning the rivers from their previous role as sewage drainage pipes to venues for spending leisure time created economic incentives in the local economy. An input-output analysis showed that in 1985, the inland navigation sector in the Sumida River generated 1.5 times the economic output by increasing demand. While this impact decreased to 1.3 times in 2005, the results clearly indicate that the regional economy can generate amenity values by improving the environmental quality. This study provides useful information to guide policymakers in allocating the budget for environmental management. In particular, it allows them to envision possible development plans to promote the livelihood of urban residents as well as understand the linkage between the environment and the economy.