Coming Clean: An Economic Perspective on Water Quality Policy
RFF First Wednesday Seminar
June 2, 2010
U.S. water quality regulation has been in the news lately, from the New York Times' "Toxic Waters" articles last fall and winter to recent coverage of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. It has been 38 years since the passage of the Clean Water Act (CWA) and 33 years since the creation of the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Have these two keystones of U.S. water quality regulation lived up to their promise of reducing our exposure to dangerous water contaminants? Do the benefits of environmental regulations under the CWA and SDWA exceed their costs? How should economists and policymakers think about the risks from emerging contaminants, nonpoint source pollution, water infrastructure deterioration, and other current issues in water quality? Do the CWA and SDWA give regulators the tools and policy instruments they need to accomplish the statutes' goals?
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