Discussion Paper

Regulating Industrial Water Pollution in the United States

Apr 1, 2003 | Winston Harrington

Abstract

The performance of the industrial point-source water pollution abatement program in the U.S. Clean Water Act is examined. I begin with a brief description of the statute and then turn to a description of the process used to develop the rules that govern effluent discharges. This is followed by a discussion of the outcomes resulting from efforts to apply these rules to industrial pollutant sources. Two types of outcomes are considered: administrative outcomes and outcomes in the water. Last, the issue of implementation is discussed: how the Clean Water Act may have affected the incentives governing the behavior of industrial dischargers, municipal waste treatment plant operators, and regulators. Surprisingly, there is some evidence that the Clean Water Act, at least as far as industrial point sources are concerned, may be evolving into an effluent fee policy, or at least a mixed policy.