October 5, 2014
The Economic Benefits of Cleaning Up the Chesapeake
Publisher(s): Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Funder(s): Chesapeake Bay Foundation
Author(s): Beth McGee, Spencer Phillips
Information on the economic benefits of environmental improvement is an important consideration for anyone (firms, organizations, government agencies, and individuals) concerned about the cost-effectiveness of changes in management designed to achieve that improvement. In the case of the Chesapeake Bay TMDL (Total Maximum Daily Load of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sediment), these benefits would accrue due to improvements in the health, and therefore productivity, of land and water in the watershed. These productivity changes occur both due to the outcomes of the TMDL and state implementation plans, also known as a "Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint" itself (i.e., cleaner water in the Bay) as well as a result of the measures taken to achieve those outcomes that have their own beneficial side effects. All such changes are then translated into dollar values for various ecosystem services, including water supply, food production, recreation, aesthetics, and others. By these measures, the total economic benefit of the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint is estimated at $22.5 billion per year (in 2013 dollars), as measured as the improvement over current conditions, or at $28.2 billion per year (in 2013 dollars), as measured as the difference between the Clean Water Blueprint and a business-as-usual scenario. (Due to lag times—it takes some time for changes in land management to result in improvements in water quality, the full measure of these benefits would begin to accrue sometime after full implementation of the Blueprint.) These considerable benefits should be considered alongside the costs and other economic aspects of implementing the Chesapeake Clean Water Blueprint.