What is Water Worth?

The Dollars and Sense of Investing in Clean Water

The quality of groundwater and surface water affects home values and quality of life with real economic impacts, and many jobs depend on clean water. This is especially true on Long Island, where a new report by The Nature Conservancy highlights that nearly half of Long Island’s gross metropolitan product—$153 billion in 2013—comes from businesses that rely significantly on fresh or salt water.

What happens when water quality declines? An example from the commercial fishing industry provides a disconcerting answer. In the 1970s, more than half the nation’s clams came from Long Island—which meant employment opportunities for many clammers, processors and distributors. Fast forward to the present. Now, according to a recent economic study, there are only 52 full-time-equivalent jobs in commercial fishing in Nassau and Suffolk Counties combined.

The link between clean water and economics is less apparent in other sectors, such as health care. The health care industry is the dominant employer on Long Island and a major user of water from the island’s aquifer. If water quality continues to decline, higher treatment costs will be passed onto patients. At a certain point, health care institutions may be obliged to invest in their own expensive water treatment processes, driving costs up further.

Real estate, where much of Long Island’s economic value is concentrated, is also tied to water quality. Proximity to clear water raises housing values. Conversely, proximity to polluted water lowers values.

For economic reasons, as well as quality of life, investment in protecting and restoring our waters is critical.

The full report, released March 2017, can be found here


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