Types of Water Pollution
Water Pollution is usually categorized as either being Point Source or Non-point Source.
“Point source water pollution is defined as emissions which enter water bodies from an easy-to-identify single source, such as a pipe from a factory or the outfall from a sewage works” (Hanley 239).
Non-point source water pollution is defined as "[pollution that] is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground. As the runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and even our underground sources of drinking water" (Pollution Runoff).
Reducing Water Pollution
The United States government created the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) in its present form in 1972 to address these and other negative externalities that affect both people and the environment.
For the most part, they have implemented traditional command-and-control policies to reduce the level of water pollution. This can be done by limiting the type of inputs allowed for production, monitoring the production process, and by monitoring the actual emissions.
Another option that is available is the use of voluntary policies. This gives firms the option to reduce pollution on their own. Firms can utilize their own research and development to find the most cost-effective way to reduce pollution to the desired range. This will usually only happen if there is a threat of regulation later.
In addition to the regulatory policies and the voluntary options, the EPA has three basic economic tools that they could utilize in their policies to reduce water pollution. They are as follows:
Even with all of these economic incentives available, "regulation through design standards and performance standards dominates water pollution control policy"(Hanley, 251).
"Pollution Runoff (Nonpoint Source Pollution)." U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. 29 Nov. 2006. April 2007. http://www.epa.gov/owow/nps/qa.html.
* Unless otherwise noted, the information in this section was summarized during a study of the following text: Hanley, Nick, and Jason F. Shogren and Ben White. Introduction to Environmental Economics. New York: Oxford University Press, 2001.