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This article in JEQ

  1. Vol. 3 No. 4, p. 335-342
    Received: June 27, 1973

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Recreational Welfare Losses from Water Pollution Along US Coasts1

  1. Dennis P. Tihansky2



The economic impact of marine water pollution on recreation losses is directly related to the extent of beach closures. As water quality enhancement increases the supply of beaches available to the public, more participants are expected at both newly opened and formerly used (but polluted) sites. Swimmers are usually more sensitive than other sport enthusiasts to beach conditions. A conceptual methodology is developed to assess the economic welfare benefits of beach cleanup. Empirical data required by the method are compiled for all coastal regions of the continental USA. Annual damages to swimming are then estimated in the range of $27.5 to $65.3 million for 1970. The results indicate that the North Atlantic coastline accounts for almost 60% of total activity day losses, compared to roughly 30% for the Great Lakes region. The remaining areas—the Pacific, South Atlantic, and Gulf states—incur relatively minor damages. Especially along the West coast, influential public concern for environmental protection has contributed toward progress on coastal zone management. Many southern shorelines avoid serious pollution problems by their lack of heavy industrialization and urbanization. Recreation losses constitute only a portion, albeit an important one, of total damages attributable to contaminated marine waters. Other human activities or natural attributes adversely impacted include commercial fishing, navigation, shoreline property values, aesthetic amenities, and ecological habitats. Welfare losses for these items could well exceed that for recreation, although current informational deficiencies on welfare measures and empirical data preclude such an assessment.

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