Clean Water for the Economy

Local economies thrive when the environment around them is healthy. Maintaining environmental protections can support clean water, healthy habitats and biodiversity. This module explains how maintaining environmental protections can also benefit businesses and valuable sectors of the economy, from commercial fishing and agriculture to boating and tourism.

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In this topic you will learn

  1. How is clean water connected to my local workforce and community?

  2. How does my local economy benefit from a healthy ecosystem?



Interpretive outdoor experiences and environmental education are more impactful and have a higher return of investment when learners have access to a hands-on, outdoor learning environment.

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Economic Development

In 2014, the Chesapeake region was estimated to provide at least $107.2 billion in natural benefits each year. Some of the most economically valuable sectors of the Chesapeake Bay watershed—including commercial fishing, recreational fishing, hunting, tourism, boating and agriculture—depend on clean water, open land and a healthy ecosystem. For example, small and independent craft brewers, who depend on the safety and reliability of clean water to craft their beers, contributed $82.9 billion and 580,000 jobs to the U.S. economy in 2019. Today, more than 100 breweries have joined the Natural Resources Defense Council’s Brewers for Clean Water.

A dollar sign, indicating economic development.

Public Health and Safety

Disease-causing bacteria and harmful algal blooms caused by excess nutrients can make people sick if they play in, on or near the water, or if they consume fish and shellfish harvested from polluted waters. Reducing these risks has the potential to lower overall health care costs.

A heart and a plus sign, indicating public health and safety.

Infrastructure Maintenance and Finance

Living shorelines use vegetation and other natural elements to manage or stabilize shorelines. Living shorelines cost less than bulkheads, seawalls and other hardened shorelines, and bring benefits such as reduced erosion, improved water quality, shoreline access for wildlife and visual appeal. Living shorelines also support economically valuable fisheries like blue crabs and menhaden.

A house, indicating infrastructure.

Case Studies You'll Find Inside

Turkey Hill Dairy


Partnership Improves Stream Health

In 2018, Turkey Hill Dairy formed a Clean Water Partnership with the Alliance for the Chesapeake Bay and the Maryland and Virginia Milk Producers Cooperative. Dairy farms that provide milk to Turkey Hill are now asked to establish conservation plans and implement on-the-ground practices that prevent nutrients and sediment from entering local waterways. In turn, these farms receive a premium for their milk. The partnership was made possible through funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service and the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation.

A dairy milking Jersey calf in Boonsboro, Maryland. (W. Parson/Chesapeake Bay Program)

Here's How You Can Help

An icon of a blue cloud with rain coming down, indicating precipitation. Reduce impervious surfaces to limit pollutants entering local waterways.
An icon with a blue heart on top of a green leaf, indicating environmental conservation. Conserve and protect habitat to maintain ecosystem functions.
An icon of a magnifying glass search tool. Explore opportunities for technical and financial support from state and federal grant programs.
An icon of a blue and a green hand mid-handshake, indicating collaboration. Share this information with others to create a more resilient community.

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