Ontario Greenbelt watersheds save taxpayers hundreds of millions by protecting water


Ontario Greenbelt watersheds save taxpayers hundreds of millions by protecting waterways and drinking water

May 30, 2012

TORONTO - The globally renowned Ontario Greenbelt provides more than $1 billion a year in economic benefits, according to a report released today by the David Suzuki Foundation.

"Protecting the fields, forests, streams and wetlands within the Ontario Greenbelt is undoubtedly paying huge dividends," said Dr. Faisal Moola, Director General of the David Suzuki Foundation's Ontario and Canada's North program. "The Greenbelt's precious watersheds naturally filter pollution from our waterways and drinking water, saving us from having to spend hundreds of millions on water infrastructure and treatment facilities."

The report, Watersheds of the Ontario Greenbelt, estimates the economic value of four key ecological services — water filtration, flow regulation, waste treatment and flood control — within the Greenbelt's four watersheds at more than $1 billion per year. The watersheds naturally perform these services by absorbing and filtering pollutants such as oil, metals, excess nutrients and sediment from waterways and drinking water sources, as well as controlling the flow of water during heavy storms.

"The watersheds of the Greenbelt act like a giant natural sponge, filter and tap," Moola said. "And protecting these watersheds pays off. Look at New York City, where more than $6 billion was saved by choosing to protect the watersheds that supply the city with clean drinking water, rather than paving them over and building costly water infrastructure, like pipelines, filtration systems and treatment plants."

The report highlights the urgent need to strengthen protection for near-urban watersheds by expanding the Greenbelt further and preventing unsustainable industrial activities and development, like the proposed Highland mega-­quarry. The 1,000 ha limestone quarry would sit on the edge of the Greenbelt and threaten local water resources that supply drinking water and sustain some of the most productive farmland in North America.

Today's report follows a study that estimated the total economic contribution of the Greenbelt (largely through employment in agriculture and tourism) at more than $9.1 billion a year. Combined with previous research by the David Suzuki Foundation that identified an additional $1.6 billion per year in non-market ecosystem values, like filtering air and storing carbon, this puts the total estimated economic value of the Greenbelt at more than $12 billion per year.

"The immense economic value of the Greenbelt demonstrates the need to bring nature into the equation when planning the growth and spread of our communities and managing industrial development," Moola said. "It highlights the benefits of investing in green living infrastructure, water conservation and low-impact development that better protect our local environment."

For more information, please download the report at www.davidsuzuki.org or contact:

Jode Roberts, Communications, David Suzuki Foundation

Cell 647 456 9752


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