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STUDY: Poor water quality could cost Southwest Florida billions of dollars

Red tide impact constant and costly.
SWFL water quality
Posted at 4:46 PM, Jan 16, 2024

FORT MYERS, Fla — The economic fallout from persistent events like red tide in Southwest Florida could reach staggering figures, according to a recent joint study conducted by three local environmental groups.

During a press conference on Tuesday, representatives from Sanibel-Captiva Conservation Foundation, Captains for Clean Water, and The Conservancy of Southwest Florida showed that over $31 billion in economic assets are at risk in the region due to bad water quality.

The analysis, which was prepared by Greene Economics LLC, indicates that for the coastal economy alone, a detrimental water event, such as the algal bloom situation in 2018, could result in $3 billion in losses for Lee County, $1.7 billion for Collier, and $466 million for Charlotte County.

Additionally, the projected economic losses in property values would total $17.8 billion across the three counties, according to the study.

Bob Moher, the President and CEO of Conservancy of Southwest Florida, emphasized that these numbers should serve as a wake-up call to the public and elected officials.

"And look, everyone who lives here and loves this community should be frustrated that we're still dealing with these issues. Should be motivated and mobilized… We really can't afford to wait any longer… We need to be proactive in driving solutions," Moher stated.

The conservation groups highlight that this study is one of the first to provide a comprehensive breakdown of the economic impact of harmful algal bloom. However, they note that these figures are just the tip of the iceberg.

On Tuesday, they urged people to contact their local representatives to tackle the water quality issue head-on.

"When we're looking at these numbers, just remember that this is just scratching the surface. There's huge unseen damages as well that aren't yet reflected," emphasized a representative.

The groups announced that they will soon present this study to lawmakers in Tallahassee. Additionally, they will be hosting another Water Quality Panel in late January.