President Trump has promised to drain the swamp in Washington. We ran this through Autocase for Green Infrastructure to see what the value is of this “strategy”. We centered the project at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue (although we considered running it from Trump’s hotel at 1100 Pennsylvania Ave). But, using the White House as the project site, we find an interesting result - that the Trump International Hotel may be the biggest beneficiary from the natural ecosystem.
The project was set to run for 4 years starting on January 20th 2017. We assumed a 100-day (de-) construction period. We left the planning period at zero since that is not the President’s strong suit.
We ran Autocase for Green Infrastructure to value an existing 1-acre swamp in D.C. to see what we’d lose from draining it.
Green infrastructure such as a swamp has many benefits; stormwater is naturally cleaned of pollutants, flooding is reduced, air pollution and carbon emissions are reduced, urban heat island effects are reduced, and property values are enhanced.
The swamp creates positive social and environmental value for Washington and also have value on a national or global scale.
In Autocase for Green Infrastructure, the value of a project is summarized in terms of Financial or Sustainable Net Present Value, or NPV. The Financial NPV only includes costs and benefits that involve cash flows to the government. Since this is an existing swamp there are no capital expenditures or operations and maintenance (O&M) costs but there are avoided costs (without the swamp you need additional piping and detention to handle the stormwater run-off so Autocase for Green Infrastructure has calculated the capital expenditures and O&M costs for these items).
The Sustainable NPV, on the other hand, includes not only financial cash flows but also the monetized value of all of the project’s social and environmental net benefits to society as a whole. In this case these, to be conservative water quality benefits were not included. Other benefits include changes in carbon emissions (Autocase allows setting the social cost of carbon to zero, or any other value, if President Trump so wishes).
Other benefits include changes in air quality, urban heat island reduction, property value uplift, and a reduction in flooding.
In the case of keeping the 1-acre swamp, the total Sustainable Net Present Value is $137,706. This means that this design alternative has a positive total value when summing together the Financial, Social, and Environmental costs and benefits. Therefore the saving the swamp project has an overall net positive value to society.
Overall, saving the swamp will result in reduced government outlays on piping and detention to stop flooding. It also has a positive social and environmental value and brings overall benefits to the surrounding region including President Trump’s hotel. We think President Trump should re-consider.