Economic Value of the Delaware Inland Bays Watershed (Draft Oct 7, 2020)

The water, natural resources, and ecosystems in the 327-square mile Delaware Inland Bays watershed in Sussex County, Delaware contribute an economic value of $1.5 billion to $4.3 billion annually to the Delaware economy as measured in three different ways:

1. Employment related to the Inland Bays watershed: The coastal economy in and around the Inland Bays watershed in 2018 supported over 70,000 jobs with $3 billion in wages with $8.2 billion in economic production and $853 million in Federal, state, and local taxes. This finding amounts to a 19% increase of 11,200 jobs in 6 years since 2012 or a 3% increase annually. This finding of 19% job growth a decade after the onset of the 2008 recession indicates the coastal economy in the Inland Bays watershed was indeed strengthening.

2. Economic value of activities supported by the Inland Bays. The Inland Bays watershed contributes over $4.4 billion in annual economic activity from water quality and quantity ($92 million), improved property value $2.2 billion), fishing/hunting/birding ($58 million), outdoor recreation $935 million), parks ($682 million), and agriculture ($433 million).

3. Value of ecosystem goods and services provided by Inland Bays watershed habitat. Using natural capital as a measure of value, habitat such as wetlands, forests, open water, and farms in the Inland Bays watershed provide $1.5 billion annually in ecosystem goods and services based on 2017 land use/land cover data.

The Delaware Inland Bays with a watershed of 327 mi2 and seasonal population of 248,000 has an economic value of $4.4 billion annually, quite significant given other national estuary programs are valued at: Barnegat Bay (758 mi2, pop. 1,500,000, $4.0 billion), MD Coastal Bays (455 mi2, pop. 400,000, $1.8 billion), and Nanticoke River (826 mi2, pop. 90,195, $2.6 billion).