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Photo of the Week: What Is a Saved Bay Worth?

The Blueprint Is Like Cash in the Bank

DSC_4731CBF President Will Baker at this morning's press conference: "Today we can confirm what we long advocated: Reducing pollution makes great sense for our health and environment." Photo by Rob Beach/CBF Staff.

This morning, we released our report, The Economic Benefits of Cleaning Up the Chesapeake. The results of the report are breaking new ground in our case for implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint—our best chance for cleaning up the Chesapeake Bay and its rivers and streams.

For the first time ever, we can put a dollar figure on the value of implementing the Blueprint. That figure is staggering. When the Blueprint is fully implemented, the added benefits of clean water, clean air, and healthy land will reach $22.5 billion per year. Just as important, the report shows that abandoning the Blueprint now would cost $6 billion annually in natural benefits lost to polluted waters.

Economic Report CoverThese numbers are a conservative estimate that came from rigorous work by CBF's water quality expert, Dr. Beth McGee, and the respected natural resources economist Dr. Spencer Phillips of Key-Log Economics. Together, they reviewed more than 70 previous studies to calculate the economic value of the natural benefits the Bay system provides.

Of the two dozen potential benefits the natural environment provides, the authors looked at the eight benefits most directly related to water quality. These are the ones they evaluated:

  • Climate Stability
  • Food production
  • Protection from flooding
  • Clean water supply
  • Clean air
  • Treatment of waste
  • Recreation
  • Aesthetic value

All tallied, those benefits to the Chesapeake Bay's six states and the District of Columbia are worth more than $107 billion annually. When the Blueprint is fully implemented, that number rises to nearly $130 billion.

The efficacy of the report has been confirmed by expert reviewers from the fields of ecological economics, water resources management, environmental policy, and water quality science. The evidence is absolutely clear: What's good for the Bay is good for the economy—not just in communities on or near the Bay where benefits to boaters and fishermen are obvious. Every state with rivers and streams that drain into the Bay stands to gain substantially from implementing the Blueprint.

Here's how the annual financial benefit of implementing the Blueprint break out by state:

  • Pennsylvania: $6.2 billion
  • Virginia: $8.3 billion
  • Maryland: $4.6 billion 
  • Delaware: $206 million
  • West Virginia: $1.3 billion
  • New York: $1.9 billion

Econ Report Infographic square FINALImplementing the Blueprint is about more than cleaning up the Bay. It's about fixing what's wrong with the way we use our land and water. It's about maintaining forested areas that help filter water, some of which ends up as drinking water in our wells. It's about smarter development, because reducing the amount of pavement and hard surfaces prevents pollution from washing into rivers and streams when it rains. Cleaning the Bay is about using best management practices on farms that minimize the fertilizer and waste running from the land into the water.

We know these things will lead to cleaner water flowing into the Bay, which will allow the return of sea grasses and increase habitat for fish and crabs that live among the grasses. Cleaner water will reduce the low oxygen zones—areas of the Bay where oxygen is so low that most marine life can't survive.
But that's not all it will do. It turns out, the very things that are needed to clean the Bay are going to improve groundwater, air quality, soil health. That in turn improves human health, property value, agricultural productivity, and recreational commerce.

We now have the proof. Implementing the Blueprint improves the economic value of the entire region—from New York to Virginia, from Pennsylvania to West Virginia, Maryland, Delaware, and the Nation’s capital.

Now it's time to get the job done, make the changes that need to be made to improve water quality in the Bay. We'll all reap the benefits!

—Kimbra Cutlip, CBF's Senior Multimedia Writer


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