Economic Implications

The impacts of ocean wastewater pollution are predominantly felt by coastal communities, but the interconnectedness of public health, the marine environment, and our global economy means the ramifications of local pollution can be felt around the world. Marine pollution more broadly reduces the value of the goods and services that oceans provide (Diez et al., 2019), including coastal protection, fisheries, and tourism. A 2019 World Bank report on global water quality called polluted waters “the invisible water crisis,” that drastically reduces gross domestic product in many countries. “Clean water is a key factor for economic growth. Deteriorating water quality is stalling economic growth, worsening health conditions, reducing food production, and exacerbating poverty in many countries,” wrote World Bank Group President David Malpass. More specifically, the report shows that when biological oxygen demand (i.e., the amount of oxygen consumed by bacteria in water during decomposition of organic matter) reaches a certain threshold, GDP drops by as much as one third. For example, the Caribbean loses an estimated $70 million to $175 million annually, owing to land-based pollution (Diez et al., 2019). Globally, the direct impacts of ocean wastewater pollution on people alone cost an estimated $16.4 billion (2018 USD) in annual economic losses (Shuval, 2003). The World Bank recommends countries act now to improve water quality, update water treatment infrastructure, accurately monitor water quality, and update and enforce quality standards (Diez et al., 2019).