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Clean Water Called Good for Environment, Property Values

With 1,700 miles of coastline, water clarity affects the value of many Long Island homes. (Doug Kerr/
With 1,700 miles of coastline, water clarity affects the value of many Long Island homes. (Doug Kerr/
March 7, 2017

EAST HAMPTON, N.Y. – A new survey shows that improving water quality not only helps the environment, it raises property values too. Most of the water pollution problems on Long Island are from on-site residential waste disposal systems such as septic tanks and cesspools.

The study, conducted in Suffolk County, found that each one-foot increase in the clarity of surface water raises home values by two to four percent.

According to Kevin McDonald, a policy adviser with the Nature Conservancy, increasing clarity by three feet would give homeowners a significant incentive to improve their waste-disposal systems.

"That could earn back to them as much as $40,000 or $50,000 or even more in more wealthy communities," he said.

The improvements in property values from better water quality were seen in homes as much as two-thirds of a mile inland.

While the problem of aging waste infrastructure is well known, homeowners and public officials are often discouraged by the costs of improvements. But McDonald says when water quality is improved, it's good for everyone.

"An entire town benefits from clean water, both in terms of the value of the general property and the amount of taxes that are also being paid system-wide," he explained.

The survey found that the increases in property values applied to both wealthy and more middle-class areas of Long Island.

Nitrogen pollution from sewage on Long Island has been associated with harmful algal blooms, dead fish and loss of shellfish. So McDonald says cleaner water brings more than a boost in property values.

"If your water is clean, you can walk in it, you can fish in it, you can have clams out of it," added McDonald. "It makes all the sense in the world."

With 1,700 miles of coastline, 500 lakes and ponds, and 30 miles of streams on Long Island, McDonald says the value of much of the housing is affected by the quality of surface water.

Andrea Sears, Public News Service - NY