Value of Inland and Coastal Waterways to the Nation

Value of Inland and Coastal Waterways to the Nation 2017-01-23T10:21:03+00:00

Value of Inland and Coastal Waterways to the Nation


Here are some facts that depict the contribution of the US port and inland waterways system to the national economy:

Value of cargo

  • 2.3 billion tons of domestic and foreign commerce moved annually.
  • 630 million tons of cargo, with a value of $73 billion, move on the inland waterways system.
  • Cargo moved by the inland waterways system yields an average transportation savings of $10.67 per ton over the cost of shipping by alternative means, translating into an annual savings of over $7 billion to the consumer.
  • The value of goods exchanged between states using ports and waterways exceeds $100 billion annually.
  • The value of foreign trade handled at ports in 1998 was $664 billion.
  • Over 60% of nation’s grain exports and over 95% of soybean exports move by barge.
  • For every $1 spent on improving the navigation infrastructure, the US Gross Domestic Product increases by more than $3.
  • Crude oil and petroleum products accounted for over 40% of all short tons shipped on the inland waterways system in 1998.
  • In Alabama,
    • $7.5 billion of cargo is moved annually on domestic water transportation
    • In 1996, shipment by water was 28.8 million tons, valued at $4.8 billion.
    • The value of domestic products shipped into the state by water in 1996 is estimated at $2.6 billion.
    • The major commodity shipped on inland waterways is coal, 33% of total.

Scope of ports and waterways

  • There are over 25,000 miles of inland waterways
  • Inland and intracoastal waterways serve 38 states.
  • 95% of the nation’s foreign commerce flow through deepwater ports.
  • The waterways industry pays fuel taxes of 20 cents/gal, more than any other mode of transportation.
  • The replacement value of projects making up the inland and intracoastal waterways is over $125 billion.
  • The port industry in the US employs approximately 1.6 million people and contribute $15.4 billion in federal taxes and $5.9 billion in state and local taxes.
  • 61% of all US imports and 63% of all US exports flow through a port located in a southern state.
  • More than 460,000 jobs in the South depend on the region’s inland waterways system.
  • In Alabama
    • Industries using water transportation provide over 60,000 jobs.
    • The inland waterways industry itself generates 2,800 jobs, providing $18 million in state and Federal payroll taxes.
    • The economic impact of the Alabama State Docks in Mobile statewide is over $3 billion.
    • The Mobile Port ranks 8th nationally in export tonnage and 16th in import.

Flood Control

  • Flood protection programs prevent an average of $20 billion in damages per year, saving $6 for every $1 spent.
  • Since 1928, Corps flood control programs have prevented nearly $226 billion in damages.
  • The Corps of Engineers has built 400 lakes and reservoirs in the US for flood control purposes.

Hydroelectric Power

  • Hydroelectric power generated by dams produce enough electricity to supply 4.64 million homes with power and $533 million to the US Treasury.
  • 20% of the coal used as fuel to produce the nation’s electricity is moved on the inland waterways system.
  • In Alabama, the average annual energy produced by US Army Corps of Engineers dams is enough to supply 128,000 homes with electricity, valued at nearly $90 million.

Water Supply

  • 9.5 million acre-feet of water storage from 116 lakes and reservoirs in the US supply water for thousands of cities, towns, and industries.


  • In Alabama, over 4 million party visits to Corps recreation sites contribute over $365 million in direct and indirect sales, resulting in 8,000 jobs.