A Bargain for Clean Water
In this article, the author reviews the effectiveness, efficiency, and political viability of federal water quality programs and possible reforms of those programs. The review includes not only the Clean Water Act, ostensibly the primary vehicle of federal water pollution control policy, but also subsidies under the Farm Bill that have the purpose or effect of reducing water pollution from agricultural sources. The author emphasizes that the CWA has historically been used to regulate point rather than non-point sources of water pollution and that it is now necessary to squarely address non-point-source water pollution if water quality is to be further improved. He suggests a "carrot and stick" approach for tackling non-point-source water pollution: the stick would be a federal requirement that states develop implementation plans imposing obligations on non-point sources; the carrot would involve the federal government rewarding agricultural sources covered by these plans with greater access to farm subsidies.