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EPA says U.S. economy depends on clean water

In a new report, the Environmental Protection Agency pegs water as "liquid assets," especially as water resources support tourism and recreation  

June 9, 2000
Web posted at: 1:28 p.m. EDT (1728 GMT)

The Environmental Protection Agency Thursday released a report confirming the bad news: that America's so-called Great Waters -- the Great Lakes, Chesapeake Bay, Lake Champlain and coastal waters -- continue to suffer from runoff, pollution discharge and air pollution.

According to the Great Waters Report, fish consumption advisories have been in place for 39 of the 56 Great Waters since 1997.

"Although the United States has made tremendous progress cleaning up its water by removing billions of pounds of pollutants and doubling the number of waterways safe for fishing and swimming, a majority of Americans live within 10 miles of a polluted lake, river, stream or coastal area," said EPA Administrator Carol Browner.

The good news is that help for America's waters is on the horizon, Browner said. "The Clinton/Gore administration will soon issue an important new standard to help states clean up remaining polluted waters across the country."

The contents of the initiative are found in another EPA report, Liquid Assets 2000: America's Water Resources at a Turning Point. The study outlines the economic value of clean water and the actions needed to protect and restore the nation's water resources.

"Americans care deeply about their rivers, lakes and shorelines," said Browner. "A third of all Americans visit coastal areas each year, generating new jobs and billions of dollars for our economy. However, our summertime traditions continue to be affected by closed beaches and fish advisories, resulting in lost revenues and public health hazards."

The biggest threat to water quality, according to the EPA, is polluted runoff from many sources. Sprawling developments, hydromodification (dam-building and channeling streams) and farming and forestry operations all contribute significantly to degraded water conditions nationwide.

According to the 1998 National Water Quality Inventory, polluted runoff is the leading cause of water quality problems in the United States.

America's water resources at a glance  

Recreation is the economic engine for clean waterways, the EPA report notes. Beaches, white-water rivers, trout streams and lakes all contribute to a robust recreation and tourism industry in the United States.

Nearly all Americans participate in water-related recreation and tourism, spending about 10 percent of their income on recreational activities. Sales of kayaks and canoes alone exceeded $99 million in 1996. Some 35 million American anglers spent $38 billion in pursuit of fishing in the same year.

Coastal tourism supports businesses such as hotels, resorts, restaurants, outdoor outfitters, charter fishing services, cruise lines and real estate and travel agencies, according to "Liquid Assets."

A significant portion of money spent on recreation is also tied to fish and wildlife, which rely on water quality and healthy habitat for survival.

Large and small game and migratory birds that depend on clean water also generate income for recreation and tourism. In 1996, nearly 14 million people spent $20 billion hunting game and migratory waterfowl.

Tourism and recreation, much of it related to areas and activities associated with water, supported jobs for more than 6.8 million people and generated annual sales of more than $450 billion in 1996.

All of these indicators point to the importance of cleaning up America's waters and keeping them clean, according to the EPA report.

The report also suggests ways to help. Among them:

EPA's Adopt your watershed data base includes several thousand watershed partnerships and volunteer monitoring organizations that work to protect and restore local watersheds.

The seventh annual Great American Secchi Dip-In July 1-16 is a volunteer water monitoring effort that measures water clarity using Secchi disks.

Copyright 1999, Environmental News Network, All Rights Reserved

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Great Waters Report
Liquid Assets 2000: America's Water Resources at a Turning Point
1998 National Water Quality Inventory
Adopt your watershed
Great American Secchi Dip-In
water quality where you live
Clean Water Act

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