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Putting a Price Tag on the Value of Clean Water In Pennsylvania

PHOTO: Recreation is just one economic driver that will pay off for Pennsylvania and other states in the Chesapeake Bay region if they stay on track with the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, according to a new report that tallies the economic value of cleaner water. Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
PHOTO: Recreation is just one economic driver that will pay off for Pennsylvania and other states in the Chesapeake Bay region if they stay on track with the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint, according to a new report that tallies the economic value of cleaner water. Photo courtesy of Chesapeake Bay Foundation.
October 7, 2014

HARRISBURG, Pa. - A new analysis of the potential financial benefits of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint finds a measurable return, with cleaner water adding about $6 billion a year in value to Pennsylvania's economy.

Similarly, the analysis notes if Pennsylvania opts to skip making improvements to ensure cleaner water in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, it will end up bypassing that projected economic productivity.

Newly-released by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, the analysis includes a number of economic aspects, including more productive farming and fishing, improved recreational opportunities, and reduced flooding and water treatment costs.

Will Baker, president of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, hopes the report ends a longstanding debate.

"Sadly, we still have the argument, 'Is it the economy or the environment - one or the other?' We believe this report will finally put that argument to rest," says Baker. "You can have the best of both worlds - a clean, healthy environment and a strong, vibrant economy."

Across the half-dozen states in the Chesapeake Bay watershed, the report says implementing the Blueprint will increase the region's economic value by $22 billion a year. Current cost figures come to about $5 billion a year to make those improvements.

Conservationist Thomas Hylton, who won a Pulitzer Prize for writing about preserving small-town America, says seeing the cleanup challenge as a cost-benefit analysis makes a powerful case for getting it done.

"How much is something costing you, and how much benefit are you getting back," he asks. "The analysis indicates it's way less expensive to pay attention to Mother Nature and protect the environment, economically, than it is to let it go."

It is estimated almost one-fourth of Pennsylvania's waterways are polluted. Baker explains simple steps like streamside buffers filter water naturally, and cut water treatment costs. He says the state's priorities for cleaner water aren't new - they just need a renewed focus.

"Pennsylvania needs to especially ensure that agricultural pollution is reduced," says Hylton. "Streamside buffers and vegetated buffers need to be increased, and efforts to reduce pollution from urban and stormwater areas need to receive adequate attention."

The six states have a 2025 deadline to meet the Blueprint requirements.

Chris Thomas, Public News Service - PA