To analyze the benefits that the Chesapeake Bay's watershed (a six-state drainage area) provides, the authors first established a 2009 baseline. They considered the environmental condition of seven types of land use: agriculture, forest, wetland, open water, urban open space, urban other (e.g., paved areas), and other (mostly barren land). These land uses were derived from data from the Chesapeake Bay Program and the National Land Cover Database.
Next, they calculated how the amount and productivity of these land uses would change if the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint were fully implemented or, alternatively, not implemented, Business as Usual.
The authors then drew from existing economic studies to calculate the dollar value of eight benefits that we enjoy and that are supplied by these land uses. The eight are: climate stability, food production, water regulation, water supply, air pollution treatment, waste treatment, recreation, and aesthetic value.
Finally, for each land use they calculated the total value of the natural benefits under the three scenarios (Baseline, Blueprint, Business as Usual) by multiplying the acres and condition of each land-use type by the dollar value of the applicable eight natural benefits.
(The methodology is fully explained on pages 8 through 12 of the report, The Economic Benefits of Cleaning Up the Chesapeake.)
When we implement the Blueprint, some highly polluting land uses will be converted to uses that produce more natural benefits. For example, agricul- tural fields that use proven conservation practices and urban spaces that incorporate common sense development solutions (rain gardens and paving that soaks in rain) will pollute less and provide increased benefits. In addition, the conversion of land from forests and wetlands to uses that produce fewer natural benefits (like parking lots and subdivisions) will occur at a slower pace. As we reduce the amount of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment pollution, that flows to our waters, the ecosystems on all the various land uses will become healthier, more capable of providing benefits.
If we fail to implement the Blueprint, we can expect to lose more forests and wetlands to development. Fewer pollution controls will be implemented on urban and suburban streets and agricultural fields. Increases in pollution will degrade ecosystems and as a result they will produce fewer natural benefits.
The report indicates that the benefits provided by the 64,000-square-mile Chesapeake Bay watershed, including its tidal areas, can be valued at more than $107 billion annually. Furthermore, when the Blueprint is fully implemented, the region will generate more than $22 billion in additional annual benefits. The report cites a decline in value of $5.6 billion (in 2013 dollars) annually if the Blueprint is not fully implemented.
The authors found that the majority of the benefits of implementing the Blueprint will be generated by upstream land uses, rather than by the open water land use of the Chesapeake Bay and the tidal portion of its tributaries.
Each of the states in the watershed will see substan- tially enhanced benefits. Virginia, more than $8.3 billion annually; Pennsylvania, $6.2 billion annually; and Maryland $4.6 billion annually. In all cases, for- ests generated the largest benefits, because more than half (55 percent) of the watershed is forested and because the services they provide—filtering drinking water, reducing flooding, providing recreation and beauty—are highly valued. Open water, however, had the largest percentage increase associated with implementing the Blueprint.
CBF's study addressed only benefits, not costs.
There are no recent estimates of the total costs of implementation, but an earlier estimate put costs in the range of roughly six billion per year.1
Considering federal, state, and local investments in clean water in the 10 years since that time, we estimate the current number is closer to five billion annually. And once capital investments are made, the long-term annual operations and maintenance costs will be much lower.
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.
1 Chesapeake Bay Watershed Blue Ribbon Finance Panel. 2004. Saving a National Treasure: Financing the Clean-up of the Chesapeake Bay.