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Valuing Florida’s Clean Waters

In 1998 the EPA adopted the Clean Water Action Plan, which stated that excessive nutrient pollution results in potentially harmful algae blooms or outbreaks leading to declining oxygen levels, an imbalance among aquatic species, public health risks, and a general degradation of the aquatic resource. The “Key Action” for addressing nutrient over-enrichment was a requirement that states develop and implement numeric limits on the amount of so-called “nutrients” – phosphorus and nitrogen – allowed in waterbodies by the year 2004.

If a state failed to do so, the EPA would establish criteria for them. As of 2008 the state of Florida had implemented just one such standard. The EPA and the state of Florida’s failure to set numeric nutrient standards resulted in the filing of a lawsuit in 2008 with the intention of forcing their development and implementation. The plaintiffs, a coalition of environmental organizations including Conservancy of Southwest Florida, claimed that the EPA was taking too long to establish the numeric nutrient criteria that the agency had already deemed necessary. The environmental groups argued that the EPA had an obligation to readily move forward with establishing and implementing such criteria in Florida. The EPA settled the litigation in August 2009, entering a consent decree with the plaintiffs, committing to have numeric nutrient criteria in place for Florida’s waterbodies by November 2010.

Since then, Florida has proposed inadequate pollution standards that will go into effect only after a water body has been biologically damaged which is unacceptable and is a detriment to our economy. The valuation of Florida’s clean water from a recent report from Elizabeth A. Stanton and Matthew Taylor from the Stockholm Environment Institute – U.S. Center indicated a value of $1.3 to $10.5 billion dollars annually.

Read the full report here.


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