Originally published by The News-Press and written by Amy Bennett Williams on January 16, 2024

The hits would look like this: $5.2 billion to the area economy, 43,000 jobs lost, $17.8 billion in property values and $460 million in fishing revenue.

That’s the beatdown Southwest Florida could expect with another water disaster like the one in 2018, when a harmful algal bloom devastated Charlotte, Collier and Lee counties, says a new study.

Released Tuesday, the report, “Impacts of Water Quality on the Southwest Florida Economy,” quantifies how bad water, both in high-profile crises and chronic declines, affects the region’s economy.

The report takes a truth generally held to be self-evident: “Water quality is fundamental to both the ecosystem and economic system” then shows the facts behind that truth, backed up with numbers and dollar values. Essentially, it says, people come here for the water; if the water’s bad, they go away and take their money with them.

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