Inter-relationships of Coastal Water Quality, Ecosystem Health, Human Health, and Socioeconomics

Author(s): Ingram, R.

Humans are a terrestrial species …we’re also a social species. Our activities impact all environmental media in which we live – surface and ground water quality and quantity, air quality, aquatic and wildlife habitat, ecosystem structure, and climate. In a recent national report on water quality in the United States, 45% of assessed stream miles, 47% of assessed lake acres, and 32% of assessed bays and estuarine square miles were classified as polluted. Mississippi’s current 303(d) List identifies 21 impaired water bodies in the Coastal Streams Basin, Lower Pascagoula River Basin, and Lower Pearl River Basin. In this same area 45 TMDLs have been developed. During 2014, 44 beach closures and/or water contact advisories were issued. Water quality, ecosystem health, and human health are all inextricably linked. Backed by science, acknowledgement of this is reflected in the tiered surface water designated use categories inherent in Mississippi’s water quality protection standards – public water supply, shellfish harvesting, recreation, and fish and wildlife – all designed to collectively protect water quality, ecosystem health, and human health. Likewise, a strong relationship exists between water quality and socioeconomics at all scales – from the individual to the local community to the larger society. A significant portion of the coastal economy depends upon water quality to support industrial development and the creation of jobs, for the maintenance of healthy ecosystems and harvesting of marine resources, and to sustain the Gulf Coast’s traditions, cultures, and quality of life.
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