Calculating the Economic Value of Clean Water in the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary

Since the passage of the 1972 Clean Water Act, water quality in the New York-New Jersey Harbor Estuary has drastically improved. Thanks to better sewage and pollution management, the water here is now the cleanest it has been in a century. Clean water is key for recreational activities like safe swimming and boating. It’s also important for the quality of shoreline parks and waterfront neighborhoods and for maintaining healthy aquatic environments for wildlife. While the area has made significant strides, the Harbor Estuary needs further investments to achieve waters clean enough for fishing and swimming in all its waterways.

Working with the EPA and NEIWPCC, HEP commissioned the first-ever estimate of the economic value clean water brings to this region. The analysis looks at four different scenarios for improved water quality: one in which the water would be suitable for boating, paddling, and wading safely in the water (secondary contact recreation); one in which people could swim safely in the water (primary contact recreation); one that allows for healthy fish and ecosystems (aquatic life); and one that includes all of the above.

The results show that households place a high value on clean water in the Harbor Estuary. The most comprehensive scenario of the analysis found that if the Harbor Estuary was safe for swimming, boating, wading, and paddling and able to improve biomass and survival of aquatic species in the next twenty years, residents of the 30 counties corresponding to the scope of the Harbor Estuary Program would value those water quality changes annually at $1.4 billion dollars or $21.7 billion dollars over a 20-year period.

The media kit is available upon request. Please email with the subject line "Calculating the Economic Value of Clean Water - Media Kit."

Hudson River Foundation