Price tag on waterway quality: $51m

A newly released study estimates a potential $51 million loss in tourism dollars if the state fails to maintain the quality of its lakes and rivers.

Funded by the New Hampshire Lakes, Rivers, Streams and Ponds Partnership – a consortium made up of non-profits and government agencies – the study reports that residents and visitors who fish, boat and swim the state’s freshwater lakes and rivers would decrease their use — and their spending — if they perceive deterioration in any of four key areas: water clarity and purity; natural views and scenery; crowding; and water levels and flows.

The study, “The Economic Impact of Potential Decline in New Hampshire Water Quality: The Link between Visitor Perceptions, Usage and Spending,” analyzes the spending and potential loss of revenue for each of the state’s seven tourism regions. The total price tag, according to the study, could reach $51 million due to visitors’ perception of decreased water clarity and purity.

“These findings are critical because they come directly from the people who enjoy the lakes and rivers and spend the money,” said Jared Teutsch, president of the New Hampshire Lakes Association, which commissioned the study on behalf of the consortium.

According to the study, more than two-thirds of those surveyed said they would reduce their visits if they perceived a change in water clarity and purity. Some 56 percent said they would decrease visits if natural views and scenery declined.

“The findings point out the critical link between the quality of our natural environment and the well-being of the New Hampshire economy,” said Joshua Cline, executive director of the New Hampshire Rivers Council.

Also, according to the study:

• Changes in water levels or flows would cost the state $29 million
• Changes in natural views or scenery would decrease spending by almost $28 million
• Increased crowding could cost $19 million

All told, the study finds, that fishing, boating and swimming generate a combined $379 million annually, or nearly 26 percent of summer tourism spending in New Hampshire.

“The bottom line is that when we’re thinking about economic development in New Hampshire, we should be thinking about protecting the natural resources that drive our recreation and tourism economy,” said Anne Nordstrom, author of the study. – JEFF FEINGOLD

Categories: News