Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Water Quality & Markets

Though the events of the past few weeks can shake the long-held assumption that the markets work well, this current uncertainty will pass and the assumption will hold.

This article from the Property and Environmental Research Center explores the way that a market approach helped enhance water quality in three regions.

An excerpt.

“In the late 1990s, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) began encouraging the use of market forces to improve water quality in rivers, streams, and coastal waters. The EPA realized that the command-and- control, point-source regulations prescribed by the Clean Water Act were not working.

“In some cases, every point source such as discharge from a pipe at an industrial facility was operating within the limits of EPA-sanctioned permits, but the river was still polluted. Uncontrolled nonpoint-source discharge such as excess fertilizers and insecticides from farming was generally the culprit, but agriculture was outside the EPA’s regulatory authority. In other cases, the activities of large numbers of publicly owned treatment works were not under the control of one coordinating authority.

“To the EPA’s credit, the agency has encouraged experimentation with incentives and markets to address growing water quality challenges. Three different approaches in Pennsylvania, Connecticut, and North Carolina serve as examples.”