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The Economics of Clean Water in Florida

By G. Andrew Stainback, Ph.D., J.D.

Florida is home to more than 21 million people and has an economy that produces over $1 trillion in economic output annually (Bureau of Economic Analysis, 2020; EDR, 2020). With over 1,300 miles of coastline, numerous rivers and lakes, and the vast Everglades ecosystem, water plays an essential role in Florida’s economy and the quality of life of its growing population. While sustainably managing the state’s water resources is crucial for our daily activities, for example, the Everglades ecosystem alone provides the drinking water for nearly 9 million Floridians, it is also essential to critical sectors of Florida’s economy, such as real estate, tourism, and fishing. Even though there has been no comprehensive study of the economic contribution of clean water in Florida, there have been numerous estimates of how water and its quality contribute to specific economic sectors.

Tourism and Recreation

According to Visit Florida, over 130 million out-of-state visitors came to Florida in 2019. A study by Rockport Analytics indicates that in 2018, out-of-state visitors contributed more than $91 billion to the state’s economy and supported over 1.5 million jobs via tourists spending money on hotels, restaurants, and other goods and services (Rockport Analytics, 2020). Detailed surveys of these visitors by Visit Florida indicate that many of them are drawn to the state to participate in water-based activities like going to the beach, recreational fishing, and boating (Visit Florida, 2017), making protecting water quality important for maintaining this critical part of the state’s economy.

According to the National Marine Manufacturers Association, recreational boating contributes more than $23 billion annually in Florida and supports over 92,000 jobs (National Marine Manufacturers Assocation, 2018). Meanwhile, recent estimates indicate that Florida anglers (both saltwater and freshwater) contribute more than $11.5 billion annually to the state’s economy while supporting over 100,000 jobs (SouthWick Associates, 2019). In just the Everglades region, anglers contribute more than $1.2 billion to the economy with Florida Bay alone contributing more $439 million (Fedler, 2009; Stainback et al., 2019).

Real Estate

Real estate is another sector critical to Florida’s economy. According to the National Association of Realtors, the real estate industry accounted for about 22% of Florida’s economy in 2019 (National Association of Realtors, 2020). Just as water plays a substantial role in the tourism and recreational industries, it also plays a substantial role in real estate. For instance, a detailed study by the Florida Realtor’s Association estimated that water quality degradation due to a 2013 algae bloom in the St. Lucie Estuary, Loxahatchee Estuary, and the part of the Indian River Lagoon north of the St. Lucie Inlet reduced residential real estate values in Martin County by $488 million (Brad, 2015). Estimates by Mather Economics indicate that Everglades restoration could increase residential real estate values by around $16 billion over a 50-year time horizon in South Florida alone (McCormick et al., 2010).

Florida's East Coast - Mac Stone


It’s important to note that the studies above provide just a glimpse of the role of water in the state’s economy. Clean water is important for many other sectors of Florida’s economy. For instance, commercial fishing and seafood industries support over 76,000 jobs and contribute over $16 billion to the state’s economy. It’s clear that sustainably managing the state’s vast water resources is necessary to provide economic opportunity, jobs, and a high quality of life to present and future generations of Floridians.


Brad, O. (2015). The Impact of Ambient Estuarine Water Quality on Florida Property Values., 54.

Bureau of Economic Analysis. (2020). Gross Domestic Product By State, 1st Quarter 2020.

EDR. (2020). Florida: An Economic Overview. The Florida Legislature Office of Economic and Demographic Research.

Fedler, T. (2009). The Economic Impact of Recreational Fishing in the Everglades Region., 17.

McCormick, B., Clement, R., Fischer, D., Lindsay, M., & Watson, R. (2010). Measuring the Economic Benefits of America’s Everglades Restoration. Mather Economics.

National Association of Realtors. (2020). The Economic Impact of a Typical Home Sale in Florida.

National Marine Manufacturers Assocation. (2018). Recreational Boating, an American Pastime & Economic Engine: Florida.

Rockport Analytics. (2020). Picking Up the Pace: Florida’s Tourism Performance Jumps Into a Higher Gear, the 2018 Contribution of Travel & Tourism to the Florida Economy.

SouthWick Associates. (2019). Economic Impacts of Recreational Fishing in: Florida.

Stainback, G. A., Fedler, T., Davis III, S. E., & Kc, B. (2019). Recreational Fishing in Florida Bay: Economic Significance and Angler Perspectives. Tourism in Marine Environments, 14(1), 89-105.

Visit Florida. (2017). 2017 Florida Visitor Study.


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