Our team was engaged to conduct a Cost Benefit Analysis to measure the social impact of the SA Water Reservoir Access Initiative.

The Challenge:  

How do you put a price on time spent in nature?

SA Water is a statutory corporation owned by the South Australian government. It provides essential water and wastewater services across South Australia.

In 2019 SA Water began the Reservoirs Access Initiative (RAI); a process of progressively opening its water reservoirs for recreational access. The intention? To deliver tangible social impact for the people and communities accessing each reservoir.

After four years of ongoing operations SA Water sought to measure the RAI’s social impact to support advocacy for funding, business planning and help them prioritise future investments.

The Solution:  

ImpactInstitute conducted a Cost Benefit Analysis (CBA) of the Reservoirs Access Initiative in line with several guiding principles outlined by SA Water.

The CBA needed to involve stakeholders, understand any key changes, value the things that matter, only include what is material, not overclaim, be transparent, verify the result, and be responsive.

A total of 10 reservoirs, across rural and urban locations, were assessed as part of this project. Our methodology was stakeholder focused and considered social, environmental and economic benefits and costs.

The process involved:  

  • A literature review 
  • A review of public reports on other public green space initiatives 
  • Conducting surveys of SA Water reservoir users 
  • Conducting focus groups with SA Water reservoir users 
  • Conducting interviews with SA Water personnel and other key stakeholders 
  • An analysis of SA Water internal reports and data 

Our process was transparent and highly consultative. We met regularly with SA Water to present key findings from our research, our methodologies, and our rationales for financial proxies.


The review identified significant individual and community benefits from the initiative. These included improved health and wellbeing and stimulation of economic activity in surrounding regions.

The work ImpactInstitute conducted has helped SA Water quantify, in economic terms, the value of their initiative.

The report we produced is instrumental in helping SA Water with funding advocacy, moreover it identified strategic business and investment opportunities to further enhance returns.


  • Impact Advisory (Cost Benefit Analysis, Research & Stakeholder Engagement)
“The work that your team has done to deliver this analysis has been impressive and much appreciated. I really think you stayed true to needing the findings to be as robust as possible, and not overstating the benefits. To that end, the approach and the decisions you have taken has stayed very true to that requirement, and as a result, I think the work is excellent.”

- Brooke Swaffer
Manager land catchments and recreation