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Water Quality. Water quality problems in developing countries. Evidence from the WHO: In 2003, an estimated 1.6 million deaths worldwide were caused by unsafe drinking water and sanitation 90% of these deaths were among children under age five

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water quality problems in developing countries
Water quality problems in developing countries
  • Evidence from the WHO:
    • In 2003, an estimated 1.6 million deaths worldwide were caused by unsafe drinking water and sanitation
    • 90% of these deaths were among children under age five
    • 1.1 billion people don’t have access to improved water sources
    • 2.4 billion people don’t have access to improved sanitation

Source: www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/wsh0404/en/

water quality problems in developing countries3
Water quality problems in developing countries
  • Biggest water quality problem in developing countries is the threat of infectious diarrhea caused by water-borne diseases.
  • If there was a 50% reduction in the number of people lacking access to in-house piped water and sewer connections with partial treatment of waste waters, the number of illnesses would be reduced by an average of 69% in affected regions.
  • http://www.who.int/water_sanitation_health/hygiene/envsan/lookingback/en/
water quality problems in the u s
Water quality problems in the U.S.

The Cuyahoga River Fire in 1969

  • Floating debris and oil caught fire on the surface of the Cuyahoga River near downtown Cleveland in 1969.
  • The Cuyahoga River had also ignited a couple of times in earlier years.
  • The Cuyahoga River fire brought water-quality problems to the attention of the public and Congress.

Photos: http://www.cwru.edu/artsci/engl/marling/60s/pages/richoux/Photographs.html

water quality problems in the u s5
Water quality problems in the U.S.

Cryptosporidium contamination in Milwaukee in 1993

  • Cryptosporidium is a protozoan parasite that’s usually present at low levels in water supplies.
  • An outbreak of cryptosporidium contamination in 1993 in Milwaukee caused diarrhea, fever, and other symptoms for over 400,000 residents and killed more than 100.
  • The contamination was traced to a water treatment plant that had inadequately filtered water from Lake Michigan.
  • It is believed that the original source of the contamination was storm runoff from nearby farms.
water quality problems in the u s6
Water quality problems in the U.S.

Narrowing the focus:

  • Surface water pollution
  • Groundwater pollution

Types of surface water pollution:

  • Pollution from point sources
  • Nonpoint-source pollution

Regulation depends on designated uses of surface water:

  • Drinking water supply
  • Recreational uses (such as swimming)
  • Aquatic life support
  • Fish consumption
  • etc.
examples of water contaminants
Examples of Water Contaminants
  • Contaminants affecting human health:
    • Organic compounds (such as pesticides and gasoline)
    • Heavy metals (such as mercury and lead)
    • Pathogens (such as cryptosporidium)
  • Contaminants affecting aquatic life:
    • Plant nutrients, including nitrate and phosphorus compounds
    • Organic wastes, which lead to depletion of dissolved oxygen in the water
federal water quality legislation
Federal Water Quality Legislation
  • Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972
  • Clean Water Act of 1977
  • Water Quality Act of 1987
  • “The Year of Clean Water”: 2002-3
water quality control an overview
Water Quality Control: An Overview
  • Control of point-source pollution
    • Federal government sets water-quality standards
    • States create pollution-control programs to meet the standards
    • Programs usually require polluters to install certain pollution-control technologies
  • Subsidies for construction of Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs)
  • Control of non-point source pollution
water quality control an overview10
Water Quality Control: An Overview

The effect that a particular effluent has on water quality depends on a number of factors such as:

  • biochemical oxygen demand in the effluent
  • time of year and water temperature
  • location of waste sources
  • turbulence of water flow
  • volume of water flow

A perfect water pollution control policy would have to take all these factors into account. Since this is impractical, actual policies involve compromises.

water treatment facilities
Water Treatment Facilities
  • Since 1970 the federal government has spent over $60 billion to subsidize construction of POTWs, and total spending by all levels of government has been over $200 billion.
  • Evidence suggests that federal funding for POTW construction has largely just replaced local funding – about 67% of construction would have taken place anyway.
  • Federal subsidies provided perverse incentives at first:
    • Municipalities had an incentive to build POTWs that were too large.
    • Federal funding didn’t help to cover operating expenses and maintenance.
    • But more responsibility has been shifted to local authorities.
  • Progress has been significant:


control of other point sources
Control of Other Point Sources
  • Basic federal program: National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
    • Administered through a system of permits that set effluent limits; but these permits are typically not tradable.
    • Goal is zero discharge; but limits are usually based largely on what level of control is technically feasible.
    • Efficiency? Cost-effectiveness?

EPA – Envirofacts

WDNR - WPDES Permit Program

point source control other options
Point-Source Control: Other Options
  • Effluent taxes or fees?
    • In theory, this is could be an effective approach.
    • Effluent taxes have been used in Europe, but the taxes are usually set too low to provide strong incentives to reduce pollution levels.
    • Best example: the Netherlands has used effluent fees as an effective pollution-control approach.
  • Why not use effluent taxes?
    • Political objections
    • Concerns that taxed firms will face a competitive disadvantage
    • Effluent taxes require careful monitoring of discharges
point source control other options15
Point-Source Control: Other Options
  • Tradable effluent permits
    • EPA > Watersheds > Trading > Frequently Asked Questions About Water Quality Trading
  • Advantages of effluent permit trading
    • Cost-effectiveness
  • Problems with effluent permit trading
    • Hot spots?
control of pollution from non point sources
Control of Pollution from Non-Point Sources
  • Major remaining water pollution problem, especially in agricultural states like Wisconsin.
  • Two important sources:
    • Agricultural runoff
    • Storm runoff
control of pollution from non point sources17
Control of Pollution from Non-Point Sources
  • Control of agricultural runoff: the DNR provides:
    • Technical assistance to farmers
    • Subsidies for improvements to prevent runoff
    • Performance standards
  • Control of storm runoff
    • Storm runoff performance standards for industry, municipalities, and construction sites
    • In Eau Claire, new businesses must pay fees based on their likely runoff.