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?
Scott Farrow is Professor and Chair of the Department of Economics at University of Maryland Baltimore County.
Julie Hewitt is Chief of the Economic & Environmental Assessment Branch of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency.
Sheila Olmstead is Associate Professor at Yale University and Visiting Scholar at Resources For the Future.
The Honorable Phil Sharp
Phil Sharp became President of Resources for the Future on September 1, 2005. His career in public service includes ten terms as a member of the U.S. House of Representatives from Indiana, and a lengthy tenure on the faculty of the John F. Kennedy School of Government and the Institute of Politics at Harvard University. He will be serving, effective immediately, on the National Academy of Sciences Committee on America's Climate Choices.
Roberton Williams III
Roberton Williams III is Associate Professor at University of Maryland-College Park, and Senior Fellow and Director of Academic Affairs at Resources For the Future.