A first-ever analysis released today by the Chesapeake Bay Foundation (CBF) finds that the economic benefits provided by nature in the Chesapeake Bay watershed will total $130 billion annually when the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is fully implemented. In Maryland those Bay benefits will top $20 billion a year.
“We all know that reducing pollution makes great sense for our health and our environment, and today we can confirm what we have long thought. It makes good economic sense as well,” said CBF President William C. Baker. “The benefits nature provides to us will increase in value by more than $22 billion, a 21 percent increase as a result of fully implementing the Blueprint. And we reap those added benefits every year.”
In Maryland, the report finds the Blueprint will increase natural benefits of the Bay and its river and streams to the state from $15.8 billion a year in 2009 to $20.4 billion annually, an increase of $4.6 billion a year.
“Just like planting trees can ease our children’s breathing, reduce our heating bills, and increase the beauty and vitality of a city or suburb, so restoring Maryland’s polluted creeks, rivers and the Bay can bring a multitude of benefits. This report quantifies those benefits. It also totals the benefits lost, in dollars, if we fail,” said Alison Prost, Maryland Executive Director. “It’s up to us whether we invest or not, and the return we reap.”
To ensure that Maryland is on pace to achieve its commitments in the Chesapeake Bay restoration plan, CBF is calling on the next governor and the next Maryland General Assembly to take a series of critical actions. They include: ensure less manure ends up in our local creeks and rivers, prevent the destruction of forests, and increase tree-planting along all streams in our cities, suburbs and rural areas.
“We recognize government leaders must spend public dollars judiciously. We can take common sense and cost-effective steps that will provide a substantial return on our investment,” said Prost.
Nature provides many benefits to the region: cleaner water, cleaner air, hurricane and flood protection, recreation, and fresh, healthy food and seafood. These benefits extend to everyone in the Bay’s 64,000-sqare-mile drainage basin, from headwater streams to the Atlantic Ocean.
The peer-reviewed report, produced by economist Spencer Phillips and CBF Senior Scientist Dr. Beth McGee, compared the value of those benefits in 2009, the year before the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint began being implemented, to the benefits that can be expected as a result of fully implementing the Blueprint.
The report estimates the value of natural benefits from the pre-Blueprint Bay watershed at $107 billion. Once the Blueprint is fully implemented, and the benefits realized, that amount grows by 21 percent to $129.7 billion a year. Equally telling, if the region relaxes efforts and does little more to clean up the Bay than what has been done to date, pollution will worsen and the value of Bay benefits will decline by almost $6 billion.
“The conclusion is clear: The region’s environmental and economic health will improve when we fully implement the Blueprint,” said co-author Phillips, an economist and one of the report’s authors. “The cleanup plan was designed with the understanding that all people and communities in the watershed can contribute to making the Bay cleaner, and that everyone will benefit when pollution is reduced. Our analysis confirms this.”
The report also identified impressive annual benefit gains in other Bay states from fully implementing the Blueprint. Pennsylvania would see an increase of $6.1 billion, Virginia $8.3 billion, New York $1.9 billion, West Virginia $1.3 billion, and Delaware $205 million.
CBF’s study addressed only benefits, not costs. While there are no recent estimates of the total costs of implementation, a 2004 estimate put costs in the range of roughly $6 billion per year.
Considering federal, state and local investments in clean water in the 10 years since that time, we estimate the current number is closer to $5 billion annually. And once capital investments are made, the long-term annual operations and maintenance costs will be much lower. The result–the Blueprint will return benefits to the region each year at a rate of more than four times the cost of the clean-up plan.
The full CBF report is available at: Cbf.org/economicbenefits