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How much is a lake worth? More than you may think

Monday, November 22nd 2021, 3:00 pm - Lakes aren't just important for the ecosystem. They're also huge economic drivers - often acting as the backbone of an entire state or province.

Lakes are important.

They support the local ecosystem, providing habitat for animals, plants, and insects.

And they are a major driver of local economies - providing jobs, tourism opportunities, and spaces for leisurely fun.

So, how much is a lake worth?

In some cases, more than you may think. Take Lake Winnipesaukee, for example, which is the largest lake in New Hampshire, spanning an area of 183.9 square kilometres.

A new economic impact study requested by the Lake Winnipesaukee Association and written by the Policy Research Shop at Dartmouth College has assigned it a value of $17.1 billion.

Here's a breakdown:

  • More than $16 billion comes from real estate and property town taxes;
  • $294 million from tourism;
  • $109 million from boating and fishing;
  • $43 million from summer camps;
  • $1.5 million comes from water supply revenue; and
  • $42 million from the Lakeport Dam.

Patricia Tarpey, executive director of the Lake Winnipesaukee Association, told The Laconia Sun the results are a real "eye-opener", highlighting both the economic power of the lake and the need to preserve it.

Lake Winnipesaukee - Wikipedia File photo of Lake Winnipesauke. (Jrclarke/Wikipedia. CC BY 3.0)


Lake Winnipesaukee isn't an isolated case. The Great Lakes, for example, is a large basin that's home to 20 per cent of the world’s surface freshwater and 84 per cent of North America's surface freshwater.

More than 30 million people live in close proximity to these lakes - including 30 per cent of Canada's population. It serves as an important transit route, helping to move around $19.8 billion worth of goods annually, support 237,868 jobs, and $45.4 billion in economic activity.


In 2017, the Council of the Great Lakes Region valued the economic output of the Great Lakes at a whopping $6 trillion (U.S.), meaning if it were a country, it would have the third-largest economy on the planet.

Something to keep in mind: these figures, while already impressively high, largely assign the economic value a lake in terms of shipping, trade, and business. They don't account for the additional, protective role lakes play in keeping communities safe from volatile weather that can damage property and infrastructure.

A properly-functioning lake can help reduce the impact of floods by storing excess water which can be released during shortages, the Government of New Brunswick says - proving yet again, they are more than just large bodies of water.

In many cases, lakes are the very thing that keeps its surrounding communities afloat.

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