Report Identifies Increased Economic Benefits of Regional Clean Water Restoration Plan

Reducing pollution increases nature's benefits in Pennsylvania by $6.2 billion

(HARRISBURG, PA)—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, the regional plan to restore the Bay, is fully implemented. In Pennsylvania those benefits will approach $40 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 William C. Baker, CBF President. "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."

The Bay, its rivers, forests, farms, and wetlands provide multiple benefits to the region, and a restored Bay watershed will provide cleaner water, cleaner air, hurricane and flood protection, recreational opportunities, 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, even in its polluted and degraded condition, at $107 billion. Once the Blueprint is fully implemented, 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 Spencer Phillips. "The cleanup plan was designed with the understanding that all people and communities in the watershed can contribute to making our waterways cleaner, and that everyone will benefit when pollution is reduced. Our analysis confirms this."

Implementing the Blueprint will have a significant, positive benefit for Pennsylvania's economy. Once the Blueprint is fully implemented, and the benefits fully realized, the value of the natural services provided would increase by $6.2 billion annually, from $32.6 to $38.8 billion.

"This report clearly validates that there is a real and measurable return on the investment Pennsylvanian's have made in clean water for their local rivers and streams, and the Bay," said Harry Campbell, CBF's Pennsylvania Executive Director. "With this report, Pennsylvanian's can be assured that cleaning up our waterways will have direct and tangible benefits to the citizens of the Commonwealth."

According to the states most recent assessment, nearly one-quarter of the state's waterways are polluted—largely by agricultural and urban/suburban polluted runoff. In order to ensure clean, healthy water for future generations and meet our commitments, the state should focus its efforts in three key areas:

  • Through education, outreach, and technical assistance, the Department of Environmental Protection (DEP) should accelerate efforts, programs, and funding to ensure that farmers are meeting Pennsylvania's water quality protection laws;
  • Accelerate the planting of streamside forested buffers which are the most cost-effective pollution reduction practice available;
  • Assist local municipal officials with efforts to decrease polluted runoff from our urban and suburban areas.

The report also identified impressive annual gains in other Bay states from fully implementing the Blueprint. Virginia would see an increase of $8.3 billion, Maryland $4.5 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 complete report can be found at



"Forests, represent nearly two-thirds of the land cover in the watershed, and are critically important for sustaining and improving water quality locally and in the Bay. By calling attention to the role forests play; this report creates an argument for drawing communities into expanding conversations for retaining working forest landscapes.
"It is vital to the success of this effort to understand that forests have economic, social, and, now, documented ecological values. To retain and expand forests in the watershed, communities have to come together to support private forest landowners has they strive to retain and steward this landscapes."

Dr. James C. Finley, Ibberson Professor of Forest Resources and Director Center for Private Forests at Penn State University

"The Chesapeake Bay Foundation reminds us that for all our technological sophistication, nature remains the ultimate source of all economic value. No industry and commerce is possible without clean air and water, fertile topsoil, and the natural recycling of wastes from the millions of people and animals living in our watershed. Healthy forests and waters are crucial to abundant life, and protecting them is the most cost-effective investment we can make."
Thomas Hylton, Pulitzer Prize-winning journalist and author of Save Our Land, Save Our Towns

"We envision the Susquehanna River as a world-class destination for outdoor learning, adventure and inspiration. If we treasure, protect and enhance the river's water quality and natural landscapes, we will reap the economic benefits of river-based tourism for generations to come. This report validates the value of these natural systems to our region's economic well-being—it makes the case that clean water and conserved natural lands mean prosperity."
Mark N. Platts, President, Susquehanna Gateway Heritage Area

"Municipalities that support healthy community designs and principles help to minimize safety issues and health disparities within their communities while also creating more attractive spaces for people to live, work and play, and ultimately also contribute to a stronger local economy.
"Research shows that communities designed for walkability and bikability have healthier residents, and create vital and liveable environments for everyone. The Lighten up Lancaster County Coalition, in partnership with Lancaster General Health, have set a goal to increase the number of communities that support healthy community design, promote physical activity, and result in healthier environments."
Beth K. Schwartz, MSN RN, Healthy Weight Management Coordinator for Lancaster General Health Wellness Center

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