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Bloom or Bust: Waterfront Housing Prices Affected by Water Quality

Source: Hakai Magazine/Mara Johnson-Groh - September 8, 2017 in Politics

Bloom or Bust: Waterfront Housing Prices Affected by Water Quality
Photo: NOAA/WIkimedia Commons (CC BY-SA 2.0)

In the real estate business, it’s all about location, location, location. Except when it’s about water quality. And as a new study shows, large algal outbreaks are a great way to dampen the value of waterfront property.

In the study, which looked at houses along Narragansett Bay, an estuary opening to the Atlantic Ocean on the Rhode Island coast, researchers tracked how housing prices rose and fell over 21 years in conjunction with changes in the bay’s water quality.

Tingting Liu, a data analyst with the US Environmental Protection Agency who led the study, found that extreme algal blooms—events that bring unpleasant odors, water discoloration, and fish kills—have the biggest effect on housing prices.

Spread over an area of 380 square kilometers, Narragansett Bay is the largest estuary in New England. With the second highest population density in the United States, and ongoing urbanization, Rhode Island has struggled to keep the bay clean. More than 100 cities across Rhode Island and Massachusetts are in the bay’s watershed, and much of the bay’s pollution comes from urban runoff and sewage treatment facilities.

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