LAND USE AS A FACTOR IN COASTAL WATER QUALITY

P.H. McGauhey

Abstract


Recognition of coastal and estuarine waters as a part of the overall water resources of a nation is a development that became evident only in quite recent years in the United States. To a significant degree it is associated with an aroused public concern for the quality of something currently described loosely as "the environemnt" — a concern which initially reached a critical mass in about the year 1969. To be sure, the oceans have always fascinated men of all sorts from adventurers to scientists, but the emergence of a broad public interest in the quality of ocean water, particularly in the coastal zone, is the result of several factors, not all of which are scientifically defensible. One such factor is the notion that the oceans are teeming with life which may well become man's final source of food when he has overwhelmed by sheer numbers the physical and biological carrying capacity of the land. Such an estimate of the potential of the sea seems to have been obtained by multiplying the volume of the oceans by the biomass concentration typical of the continental shelves. That it is a vast exaggeration in no way detracts from its potential to energize public reaction. However, the truth that aquatic life is most abundant in the coastal zones, and the prospect that man must manage this zone in a better manner if that life is to continue to contribute to his well being, only makes it the more important that the quality of coastal waters be a matter of concern and of purposeful management. To this end a considerable degree of public overestimation of the role of the sea in sustaining human life is a force that can be harnessed to productive programs of intelligent action. In fact, an appreciable amount of purely emotional concern for such catchwords as "ecosystems," "endangered species," "habitat,1,1 etc. can be tolerated and often used productively without any debating of its validity as long as it does not impose a serious constraint upon society without generating any corresponding benefit to either man or his fellow creatures.

Keywords


land use; water quality

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