Cost of AIS high and growingAquatic invasive species cost businesses and consumers in the Great Lakes region hundreds of millions of dollars annually in direct costs and even more from indirect costs related to removal, maintenance and management of those species.
Aquatic invasive species cost businesses and consumers in the Great Lakes region hundreds of millions of dollars annually in direct costs and even more from indirect costs related to removal, maintenance and management of those species.
Meanwhile, state and federal governments are forced to spend additional millions as they attempt to control the impact and prevent the spread, according to a new report by Anderson Economic Group, commissioned and released by the Nature Conservancy.
The industries most affected by aquatic invasive species include sport and commercial fishing, water treatment, power generation and tourism. Together, these industries employ more than 125,000 workers in the Great Lakes region.
The report details the many ways aquatic invasive species impose economic costs in the Great Lakes region and it puts into context the scale of the impact on several industries directly affected by aquatic invasive species. For example, the cost of controlling zebra mussels at one water treatment facility is about $353,000 annually.
“Some may think that $353,000 doesn’t sound like much in the larger context of business costs, but when you consider that we have 381 water treatment facilities across the basin, those numbers add up quickly,” said Alex Rosaen, consultant at Anderson Economic Group, and the primary author of the report. “That means the region is spending over $100 million annually on managing a pest infestation we might have been able to prevent.”
The report also outlines how indirect costs are spread across the economy. Primary examples are the cost of government to respond to AIS, and the cost of regulations developed in response to AIS.
Other economic costs associated with aquatic invasive species include decreased productivity caused by resources that must be committed to dealing with the impacts, like removing zebra mussels from water intake pipes and reduced demand for goods and services, such as fewer tourists or fishermen at popular destinations due to impacted fisheries or beach closures.
“We’ve long known in the conservation community that AIS causes a significant disruption to species in the food chain, but it’s important to be able to quantify the damage to our economy,” said Mary Jean Huston, director of the Nature Conservancy in Wisconsin. “This is not just an environmental problem. It is an economic one, too.”
States across the basin are spending significant financial resources already on maintenance, control and prevention of aquatic invasive species. According to the report, the state of Wisconsin spent $12 million on AIS in 2009 and 2010 — more than any other state in the Great Lakes region.
Bruce Ramme, vice president-environmental at We Energies, Wisconsin’s largest electrical and gas utility, said the impact of invasive species is significant on many businesses in the Great Lakes region.
“Invasive species affect our facilities on a daily basis,” Ramme said. “We’ve invested in measures to minimize the impact — particularly of zebra mussels.