Linking to a new EPA report hot off the press titled, Importance of Water to the U.S. Economy, which Nancy Stoner, acting head of EPA Office of Water blogged about over on EPA’s blog. It’s a short read, only 37 pages, but is chock-full of interesting factoids. Nothing new or earth shattering, but it lays out a compelling case why we as a nation must do a better job of managing our water resources, both surface and groundwater. It bears worth repeating, that safe, secure and reliable water is the fundamental building block to local economies for energy production, water supply, food production, recreation and tourism.
Although I’m sure the Milwaukee Chamber of Commerce would rather expunge the year 1993 from the Roman calendar, what happened in Milwaukee 20 years ago is a painful reminder of how important clean, safe water is to our health when we don’t have it.
In 1993 the largest recorded waterborne disease outbreak in the United States took place when treatment plants in Milwaukee, Wisconsin failed to eliminate cryptosporidium oocysts introduced into surface waters by runoff from nearby cattle pastures. The incident resulted in more than 403,000 cases of illness (25 percent of the population) and 104 deaths in just two weeks. According to an analysis by the Centers for Disease Control, the total cost associated with the outbreak was $96.2 million (1993 dollars), including $31.7 million in medical costs and $64.6 million in productivity losses (Corso, 2003). Note that these estimates provide only a lower bound on the true economic cost of the outbreak, since they do not consider willingness to pay to avoid the deaths and illnesses the outbreak caused.