Resolving conflicting objectives in the management of the Plastiras Lake: can we quantify beauty?
Abstract. The possible water management of the Plastiras Lake, an artificial reservoir in central Greece, is examined. The lake and surrounding landscape are aesthetically degraded when the water level drops, and the requirement of maintaining a high quality of the scenery constitutes one of the several conflicting water uses, the other ones being irrigation, water supply, and power production. This environmental water use, and, to a lesser extent, the requirement for adequate water quality, results in constraining the annual release. Thus, the allowed fluctuation of reservoir stage is not defined by the physical and technical characteristics of the reservoir, but by a multi-criteria decision, the three criteria being maximising water release, ensuring adequate water quality, and maintaining a high quality of the natural landscape. Each of these criteria is analyzed separately. The results are then put together in a multicriterion tableau, which helps understand the implications of the possible alternative decisions. Several conflict resolution methods are overviewed, namely willingness to pay, hedonic prices, and multi-criteria decision analysis. All these methods attempt to quantify non-quantifiable qualities, and it is concluded that they don't necessarily offer any advantage over merely making a choice based on understanding.