US Army Corps of Engineers
Institute for Water Resources Website

Value to the Nation logo graphic

Value to the Nation

Redirecting...

Fast Facts: Computations and Sources

VTN Fast Facts mapComputations of economic benefits and sources for Fast Facts data can be found below, organized by Fast Facts subject and year.

Computations of Economic Benefits

Collapse All Expand All

Computations of Economic Impacts of USACE Visitor Spending

Four components are needed to estimate economic effects: recreation spending, visitor use estimates, capture rates and economic multipliers.

Economic effects = # of visits × average spending per visit × capture rate × regional economic multiplier

The visitation data used here was derived from the VERS database with 2019 data, while the spending profiles were estimated from a national visitor spending survey that was conducted in 2011-2013 and price indexed to 2019 dollars using Consumer Price Index by sectors. Economic contributions are calculated using the Army Corps’ Regional Economic System (RECONS) with capture rates and economic multipliers were extracted from the Impact Analysis for Planning (IMPLAN) system. Regional models were developed for each of the USACE projects, districts, divisions, plus a national model and 43 state models to estimate the total economic effects at various geographic levels. Spending averages were computed and multiplied by visitation statistics to estimate total annual visitor spending. Generalized spending profiles were developed for three sets of visitor segments: (1) campers and day users, (2) boaters and non-boaters, and (3) locals vs. non-locals. These profiles were applied to recreation use data gathered from the visitation use survey and from VERS and National Recreation Reservation System (NRRS) to estimate total spending by each segment for each of the 402 USACE projects.

It is important to distinguish these results that employed local models, or "bottom-up" approach (aggregation of local effects) from the "top-down" approach that used state or U.S. models. The top-down effects were the results of total trip spending by USACE visitors (both within and outside 30 miles of projects' borders) and employed state or national multipliers. These effects were much higher than the aggregation of local effects because the higher capture rate and higher multipliers. The economic impact estimates employed the "top-down" approach are available on this website for all district, division, state and the national level reports.

Sources of Data

Chang, W. H., et al. (2019). US Army Corps of Engineers IWR-Regional Economic System (RECONS). Computer Model and Online Database. Alexandria, VA: Institute for Water Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Stynes, D.J., and Chang, W.H. (2007). National and Regional Economic Effects of CE Recreation Visitor Spending: An Update. Technical report, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, MS. In press.

Chang, W.H., Propst, D.B., Stynes, D.J., and Jackson, R.S. (2003). Recreation Visitor Spending Profiles and Economic benefits to Corps of Engineers Projects. ERDC/EL TR-03-21. Technical report, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, MS.

Natural Resources Management Assessment (2020). Online tool and electronic database. Maintained by US Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC.

Operations and Maintenance Business Information Link (OMBIL) – (2019). Electronic database. Maintained by US Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC.

Visitation Estimation & Reporting System (VERS) – (2019). Electronic database. Maintained by US Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC.

National Recreation Reservation System (NRRS) – (2019). Proprietary electronic database. Transmitted to US Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC.

The flood risk management (FRM) program is a prominent activity within USACE Civil Works. The types of infrastructure that fall under this category of investment include levees, storage reservoirs, and other floodplain management measures. Some of these projects may have multiple purposes. For example, reservoirs that help reduce flood risk also may provide storage for water supply and produce hydropower. The Economic and Environmental Principles and Guidelines for Water and Land Resources Implementation Studies (1983) (referred to as the P&G) provides a conceptual basis for various National Economic Development (NED) benefit estimation procedures by area of study. For FRM, the P&G suggests, in general, NED benefits are realized through reductions in flood hazards that accrue primarily through the reduction in actual or potential damages associated with land use. Following that guidance, the FRM NED benefits used in the Value to the Nation effort are an estimate of the monetary value of damages floods would have caused in absence of the USACE investments put in place to prevent those damages. Reductions in damages from coastal storm surge impacts are not included in the benefit estimate.

USACE annually tracks FRM programmatic benefits in its Annual Flood Damage Report to Congress. Each Annual Flood Damage Report includes assessments of flood damages, acres inundated, property damages, loss of life, and damages prevented by previously completed flood risk management projects (not including coastal storm damage reduction). The estimates of FRM benefits used in this report are taken from data supporting the Annual Flood Damage Report Fiscal Year 2015 (available at https://maps.crrel.usace.army.mil/fdr [Corps Only]). FRM benefits are dependent upon the value of structures in the floodplain, which may increase over time. The benefit estimates also vary significantly from year-to-year because they are based on the weather conditions for the given year (years with many floods are likely to show greater benefits than years with less flooding since damages prevented are measured as benefits). A 10-year average is often used to account for high year-to-year variability.

The 10-year average FRM benefits for fiscal years (FY) 2008-2017 are estimated to be approximately $87.3 billion. For FY 2017 only, the FRM benefits are estimated to be approximately $249.5 billion. For more information on Flood Risk Management benefits, please visit https://maps.crrel.usace.army.mil/fdr (Corps Only).

Sources of Data

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE). Flood Damage Annual Report to Congress. 2018. https://maps.crrel.usace.army.mil/fdr/ (Corps Only).

The National Economic Development (NED) benefit estimate for Great Lakes Navigation is calculated first at the commodity level by multiplying the tonnage estimate for each commodity group by the estimated savings per ton ($/ton) for each commodity group. The total NED benefit for Great Lakes Navigation is calculated by summing the resulting NED benefit estimates for each commodity group.

NED Benefit Estimate ($) = Estimated Tonnage Shipped (ton) x Savings per Ton Shipped ($/ton)

Benefits for the Great Lakes Navigation System were generated using a rate savings approach, where transportation rate savings per ton (by commodity type) were derived as the difference between transportation costs associated with current waterway movements and transportation costs associated with the most-likely least cost alternate transport mode. Typically, a combination of rail and/or truck is assumed to be the most-likely alternative transportation cost.

Multiplying rate savings per ton estimates by commodity tonnages and summing all nine commodity groups yields an FY 2017 Great Lakes navigation benefit estimate of $2.77 billion. The Great Lakes tonnage includes mostly domestic traffic.

The Great Lakes Navigation transportation rates utilized in this analysis were provided by the USACE Planning Center of Expertise for Inland Navigation and Risk Informed Economics Division (PCXIN-RED). Unique rates were developed for each calendar year, by commodity group, which effectively combine the major bulk sub-groups that transit the Great Lakes navigation system. Tonnage-weighted average rates were developed using a Great Lakes System rate study. This study identified the major commodity movements that occurred in the basin, and calculated origin-destination transportation rates for waterway movements, and the least cost overland route. The difference between these two modal options represent rate savings.

Great Lakes navigation tonnages, rate savings per ton, and total rate savings are shown in the table below.

2016 Great Lakes Tonnages, Rate Savings per Ton, and Total Rate Savings

Commodity

Tonnage (M)

Savings per Ton ($)

Total Savings ($B)

Iron/Steel

46.41

$13.86

$0.64

Aggregates

25.20

$20.49

$0.52

Coal

15.40

$17.89

$0.28

Petroleum

12.32

$25.25

$0.31

Grains

5.23

$38.96

$0.20

Chemicals

3.67

$27.53

$0.10

Ores/Minerals

2.01

$28.29

$0.06

Others

13.75

$48.26

$0.66

Grand Total

123.98

 

$2.77

Due to the nature of the USACE Navigation program, much of the division, district, and project level data includes double counting (mainly because tons that are transported in one district are also likely to be transported in other districts as they move along a waterway). In short, to accommodate these issues a national quantity of inland tonnage (based on commodity tonnage) that did not include double counted tonnages was distributed to each project based on its percentage of total tons shipped.


Note: All tonnage values reported are measured in short tons.

Sources of Data

USACE Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center (WCSC), TOWS detail table. (2018). Electronic database. Maintained by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Planning Center of Expertise for Inland Navigation. (2013). Waterway and Overland Transportation Costs.

A 2015 USACE Hydropower Analysis Center study, Quantifying the Cost of Unit Outages Across the USACE Hydropower Facilities, developed an approach to simulate 15 years of historic average daily flow and reservoir elevations into hourly flow distributions by matching historical flows to current plant operations and turbine efficiencies. This study generated values for the energy produced from the USACE hydropower capital stock. The energy values are based on regional locational marginal prices (LMP) collected from a plant’s most relevant energy market. The NED benefits accruing to USACE hydropower investments are computed by summing the average energy replacement values from each USACE project with generating capability. Values were adjusted for inflation in order to convert estimates to 2017 dollars. The FY 2017 NED hydropower benefit estimate is $2.57 billion.

Sources of Data

USACE Hydropower Analysis Center, 2015. Quantifying the Cost of Unit Outages across the USACE Hydropower Facilities.

The National Economic Development (NED) benefit estimate for Inland Navigation is calculated first at the commodity level by multiplying the tonnage estimate for each commodity group by the estimated savings per ton ($/ton) for each commodity group. The total NED benefit for Inland Navigation is calculated by summing the resulting NED benefit estimates for each commodity group.

NED Benefit Estimate ($) = Estimated Tonnage Shipped (ton) x Savings per Ton Shipped ($/ton)

Inland navigation typically comprises two sub-groups: fuel-taxed ports and inland shallow-draft ports. Together these two subgroups account for approximately 554 million tons of cargo that were transported via the inland waterway system in 2017. Transportation rate savings per ton (by commodity type) were derived as the difference between transportation costs associated with current waterway movements and transportation costs associated with the most-likely least cost alternate transport mode. Typically, a combination of rail and/or truck is assumed to be the most-likely alternative transportation cost.

Multiplying rate savings per ton estimates by commodity tonnages and summing all nine commodity groups yields an FY 2017 inland navigation benefit estimate of $13.16 billion. The inland tonnage includes all domestic traffic. For example, domestic traffic from New Orleans traveling up the Mississippi River to another inland port would be included.

The Inland Navigation transportation rates utilized in this analysis were provided by the USACE Planning Center of Expertise for Inland Navigation and Risk Informed Economics Division (PCXIN-RED). Unique rates were developed for each calendar year from 2010-2017, by commodity group, which effectively combine the major bulk sub-groups that transit the inland navigation system. Tonnage-weighted average rates were developed using river basin rate studies (Arkansas, Columbia-Snake, Gulf Intracoastal Waterway, Ohio, Red, and Upper Mississippi). These studies identified the major commodity movements that occurred in each basin, and calculated origin-destination transportation rates for waterway movements, and the least cost overland route. The difference between these two modal options represent rate savings.

Inland navigation tonnages, rate savings per ton, and total rate savings are shown in the table below.

2016 Inland Tonnages, Rate Savings per Ton, and Total Rate Savings

Commodity

Tonnage (M)

Savings per Ton ($)

Total Savings ($B)

Petroleum

120.0

$27.75

$3.33

Coal

112.1

$11.96

$1.34

Grains

92.4

$25.38

$2.35

Aggregates

78.7

$12.88

$1.01

Chemicals

53.9

$47.74

$2.57

Crude Petroleum

33.7

$17.21

$0.58

Iron/Steel

27.3

$29.93

$0.82

Ores/Minerals

11.3

$36.67

$0.41

Others

24.2

$30.71

$0.74

Grand Total

553.6

 

$13.16

Due to the nature of the USACE Navigation program, much of the division, district, and project level data includes double counting (mainly because tons that are transported in one district are also likely to be transported in other districts as they move along a waterway). In short, to accommodate these issues a national quantity of inland tonnage (based on commodity tonnage) that did not include double counted tonnages was distributed to each project based on its percentage of total tons shipped. 


Note: All tonnage values reported are measured in short tons.

Sources of Data

USACE Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center (WCSC), TOWS detail table. (2018). Electronic database. Maintained by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC.

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Planning Center of Expertise for Inland Navigation. (2013). Waterway and Overland Transportation Costs.

Of the approximately 380 reservoir projects operated and maintained by USACE in 2017, 136 contain storage space for M&I water supply. Combined, the projects contain approximately 9.8 million acre feet of storage space allocated for M&I water supply. About 96 percent, or more than 9.3 million acre feet, of this storage is under contract. The contracted storage has a potential yield of approximately 5,062 MGD and a 2017 total yield of 6,070 MGD.1

Water supply benefits are estimated by multiplying daily present use water supply yield by 365 days to arrive at an annual yield. The resulting number then is multiplied by an estimate of the average price of water in the U.S., which amounts to an annual water supply benefit estimate of $5.94 billion in 2017.

The most recent and reliable estimate of the average price of water in the U.S. was reported by NUS in 2008. Unfortunately, at present there is not sufficient information available to accurately compare the earlier estimate to the NUS estimate used in this analysis. The NUS estimate of the price of water is considered to be the best available estimate for the average price of water in the U.S., even though it includes treatment and other costs. The estimated average price of water was $2,810 per MGD, which is equivalent to approximately $3,217 in 2017 prices.

Water Supply Benefits = Yield from Contracted Storage (MGD) x 365 x Average Price of Water per MGD $5.94 Billion = 5.062 (MGD) x 365 (days) x $3,217 (per MGD)


1Where 1 MGD = 3.069 acre-feet. Please note that, in order to convert a volume (acre-feet) to a rate (MGD), and vice versa, this conversion assumes 1 acre-foot = 1 acre-foot per year.

Sources of Data

FY 2016 Municipal, Industrial and Irrigation Water Supply Database Report. (2017) Alexandria, VA: Institute for Water Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Operations and Maintenance Business Information Link (OMBIL) accessed via USACE Enterprise Data Warehouse. (2017). Electronic database. Maintained by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC.

Thompson Reuters, "Average U.S. Water Costs Increase by 7.3%." 2008. Available via http://www.marketwired.com/press-release/nus-consulting-903477.htm

Water Supply storage and agreement information is based on the FY 2016 Municipal, Industrial and Irrigation Water Supply Database Report.

The National Economic Development (NED) benefit estimate for Coastal Deep-Draft Navigation reflects transportation cost savings and was calculated by USACE navigation experts using the National Navigation Operation and Maintenance Performance Evaluation and Assessment System (NNOMPEAS), which was developed and is currently maintained by the USACE Institute for Water Resources. NNOMPEAS was used to estimate how waterborne transportation costs changed based on significant changes in waterway dimensions relative to pre-project conditions. This method differs from those used in the estimation of NED benefits for Inland and Great Lakes Navigation, as those methods focus on how waterway transportation costs change relative to the next best alternative (rail transportation). For Coastal Navigation, transportation of goods by a different mode (rail or air) would not be a logical alternative, therefore the pre-project condition was used as a basis for estimating benefits.

This analysis determined a regression relationship between depth and transportation costs. Assuming that each foot of additional depth beyond the original historical depth creates new opportunities for ships to load more cargo or for larger ships to enter, additional benefits were calculated for each additional increment of depth. This regression relationship was applied to the top 95 coastal ports (in terms of cargo tons) to compare coastal deep-draft transportation costs at today’s depths with the costs that would have existed if the ports had not been modified by USACE. It should be recognized that the regression was based on depth changes of minus five to eight feet and the application of this relationship to larger depth changes creates additional risk of other changes, such as fleet composition, that the NNOMPEAS model does not account for. Transportation cost savings per ton were estimated for each of the top 95 ports by interpolating the cost savings associated with the difference between today's depth and the historical depth. The estimated transportation cost savings per ton was then multiplied by the tonnage throughput for each respective port in order to estimate NED benefits for each of the top 95 ports. Together, these 95 ports represent about 99% of all coastal tonnage.

Update of relationships beyond the original base year detailed evaluation are based on application of regression relationships to throughput tonnage by respective year, applicable update of vessel operating costs according to vessel type and size or capacity class, and distances for open water transit which are the primary factors for estimating total applicable transportation costs and the differentials therein for estimating economic benefits for the coastal waterborne navigation program.

The FY 2016 NED benefit for Coastal Navigation (not including Great Lakes ports) was $10.15 billion.


Note: All tonnage values reported are measured in short tons.

Sources of Data

USACE Waterborne Commerce Statistics Center (WCSC), TOWS detail table. (2016). Electronic database. Maintained by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC.

National Navigation Operation and Maintenance Performance Evaluation and Assessment System (NNOMPEAS). (2016). Electronic database. Maintained by U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Washington, DC.

Computations of Economic Impacts of USACE Visitor Spending

Four components are needed to estimate economic effects: recreation spending, visitor use estimates, capture rates and economic multipliers.

Economic effects = # of visits × average spending per visit × capture rate × regional economic multiplier

The visitation data used here was derived from the OMBIL and VERS database with 2016 data, while the spending profiles were estimated from a national visitor spending survey that was conducted in 1999/2000 and price indexed to 2016 dollars using Consumer Price Index by sectors. Capture rates and economic multipliers were estimated using the Impact Analysis for Planning (IMPLAN) system. IMPLAN is a microcomputer based input-output (I-O) modeling system that is currently maintained by the Minnesota IMPLAN Group Inc. Regional IMPLAN models were developed for each of the USACE projects, districts, divisions, plus a national model and 43 state models to estimate the total economic effects at various geographic levels. Spending averages were computed and multiplied by visitation statistics to estimate total annual visitor spending. Generalized spending profiles were developed for two sets of visitor segments: (1) campers and day users, and (2) boaters and non-boaters. These profiles were applied to recreation use data gathered from the visitation use survey and from VERS and National Recreation Reservation System (NRRS) to estimate total spending by each segment for each of the 402 USACE projects.

It is important to distinguish these results that employed local models, or "bottom-up" approach (aggregation of local effects) from the "top-down" approach that used state or U.S. models. The top-down effects were the results of total trip spending by USACE visitors (both within and outside 30 miles of projects' borders) and employed state or national multipliers. These effects were much higher than the aggregation of local effects because the higher capture rate and higher multipliers. The economic impact estimates employed the "top-down" approach are available on this website for all district, division, state and the national level reports.

Sources of Data

Chang, W. H., et al. (2012). US Army Corps of Engineers IWR- Regional Economic System. Computer Model and Online Database. Alexandria, VA: Institute for Water Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Chang, W. H., Stynes, D. J., Jackson, R. S., & Propst, D. B. (2012). US Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Economic Assessment System. Computer Model and Online Database. Alexandria, VA: Institute for Water Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Stynes, D.J., and Chang, W.H. (2007). National and Regional Economic Effects of CE Recreation Visitor Spending: An Update. Technical report, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, MS. In press.

Chang, W.H., Propst, D.B., Stynes, D.J., and Jackson, R.S. (2003). Recreation Visitor Spending Profiles and Economic benefits to Corps of Engineers Projects. ERDC/EL TR-03-21. Technical report, U.S. Army Engineer Research and Development Center, Vicksburg, MS.

Jackson, R. S., Stynes, D. J., Propst, D. B., and Carlson, B. D. (1996). A Summary of the National and State Economic Effects of the 1994 U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Recreation Program. Technical Report R-96-1, U.S. Army Engineer Waterways Experiment Station, Vicksburg, MS.

Operations and Maintenance Business Information Link (OMBIL) –(2018). Electronic database. Maintained by US Army Engineer, Washington, DC.

Visitation Estimation & Reporting System (VERS) –(2018). Electronic database. Maintained by US Army Engineer, Washington, DC.

National Recreation Reservation System (NRRS)- (2018). Proprietary electronic database. Transmitted to US Army Engineer, Washington, DC.

On a national level, the Value to the Nation program calculates, by USACE program, estimates of the annual National Economic Development (NED) benefits of USACE infrastructure to the nation, net NED benefits, and impacts to the U.S. Treasury from project outputs and related economic activities associated with USACE Civil Works programs. Detailed descriptions of the methodologies used to calculate NED benefits for each business line are provided below.

Net NED benefits are calculated as the NED benefits minus the costs of operations, maintenance, and investigations. Those costs are based on the President’s Budget for USACE. Monetary values in the national historic fast facts tables reflect FY 2016 price levels and are considered to be order of magnitude numbers.

In general, the estimates of revenues generated to the U.S. Treasury are calculated as increases in U.S. Treasury revenues in the form of increased tax payments and direct payments to the U.S. Treasury for vendible outputs plus decreases in expenditures in the form of decreased tax expenditures and assistance payments that accrue to the U.S. Treasury as a result of the USACE Civil Works program. The basic approach begins with the calculated NED benefits for each program, then estimates the impacts on federal revenues. The estimates provided in the national historic fast facts tables are approximations meant to capture order of magnitude and key revenue and tax components. These calculations use the latest available and applicable Internal Revenue Service data from a variety of publications. A summary of the methodology, by USACE program, for estimates of revenues generated to the U.S. Treasury are provided below.

  • Flood Risk Management: Non-business casualty losses avoided + Business casualty losses avoided + Disaster assistance payments avoided
  • Coastal Navigation: Increased revenues due to cost savings + Harbor Maintenance Trust Fund tax revenues
  • Inland Navigation: Increased revenues due to cost savings + Inland Waterways Trust Fund tax revenues
  • Water Supply: Repayment of investment cost + O&M costs + Interest – Cost of collection
  • Hydropower: SEPA revenues + SWPA revenues + BPA revenues + WPA revenues
  • Recreation: (NED benefits generated × Average individual tax rate) + USACE-collected fees for use of recreation facilities

In addition to the revenue generated by the USACE programs discussed above, USACE collects revenues from sale of agricultural, and fish and wildlife leases; from permits; and from sale of crops, timber, and sand and gravel. These collections generated about $24 million in 2016 annual revenues to the U.S. Treasury.

Computations of Capital Stock

Descriptions of how Capital Stock numbers were calculated can be found on these pages:

Graphic of Value to the Nation business line topics