A Review on World Water Emission Problems

A Review on World Water Emission Problems

            After decades of investments and regulations to minimize point source pollution, there still exist numerous water quality challenges in OECD countries. Efforts to address the existing problems have been focused on using market mechanisms, including immense potential to improve water quality, as well as economic performance of a country. However, water quality improvement programs can have negative or positive impacts to a country’s economic performance. For instance, in the United States, a significant percentage of the national budget is used to fund Total Daily Maximum Load (TDML) programs, hence reducing the budgetary allocations for economic development projects. Moreover, while TDML projects immensely increase government expenditure, the amount of incentive cascading down to the individual participants is still inadequate to encourage adequate participation (Fleming, Lichtenberg & Newburn, 2018). In this regard, the government must consider increasing the amount of available incentives to ensure improved public participation, hence availability of water quality. On the other hand, the tax-based related policies implemented in France are considerably effective, because of the mandatory public participation involved. However, the tax-related regulations and legislations lead to significantly increased water costs, hence reducing the product accessibility, especially to the poor people. Thus, while market mechanisms are essential for improving water quality, they require necessary adjustments with regard to costs and public participations as well to produce the anticipated improved economic performance.   

Water Quality-Related Policies in OECD Countries

            According to OECD, it is easier to control point source municipal and industrial polluters than engage with a huge number of land users, such as farmers, where variable factors such as soil, climate and politics play an immense role. However, the cumulative impacts of diffuse water pollution can be tremendously devastating for the well-being of human beings and the ecosystem. Specifically, the cumulative impacts of water pollution can sabotage sustainable economic growth. In this regard, OECD monitors the connections between agriculture and environment, and identifies relevant contamination mitigation policies, while enhancing the benefits of improved water quality. Moreover, the organization recommends policy to enhance coherence for the agricultural sector’s environmental performance. In this regard, a huge number of OECD countries implement a policy-based strategy to improve the quality of water in point sources, hence support aquatic life.  

Actual Case Studies

            OECD countries have made immense efforts to reduce environmental, as well as economic impacts of water emissions.  Implemented solutions range from water quality management programs to service-related information systems. However, in many cases, market mechanisms play an immense role in the success or failure of the implemented solutions. Some of the implemented solutions in OECD countries include the Thames Tideway Tunnel Project in London, UK, TDML programs in the US and Tax Regulations in France. The Tideway Tunnel Project is fully funded by the UK government and focuses on reducing the amount of waste dissolved in runoff that enters river Thames. Although the project is expected to significantly improve the water quality in river Thames as well as other surface and ground water, it possesses immense economic impacts, especially because of its large budget. On the other hand, US TDML-related programs and French water quality improvement initiatives, including WFD and water quality related taxes, are expected to immensely improve water quality and positively impact the national economy, because of directly including public participation. However, while the US government funds the programs through incentives paid to participants, the French administration imposes taxes on relevant stakeholders to fund water quality improvement initiatives. Therefore, despite having immense similarities, the French and the US programs trigger significantly varied economic as well as water quality impacts.

            Thames Tideway Tunnel Project, London, UK. The increasingly rampant cholera epidemics in London, UK, especially in the early years of the 19th century, were largely attributed to the lack of a sewer system in the city. In this regard, a mega project, designed by the then Metropolitan Board of Works, chief engineer, Joseph Bazalgette to divert waste water to river Thames, was implemented in the city in the 1860s. The Victorian project involved excavation of over 3.5 million tonnes of earth, and need almost 700,000 millimetres of cement and about 300,000 bricks to complete. With such a huge sewer system, cases of cholera epidemics significantly reduced in London in the following several decades. However, despite undergoing several major improvements in the 20th century, the sewer system cannot meet the demands of a significantly high population and increased physical expansion, especially during wet weathers when high rainfall can immensely overwhelm sewers and treatment works in the city. Thus, the Thames Tideway Tunnels Project was proposed to upgrade the sewer system in London to upgrade the existing sewer system to meet the demands of a significantly expanded city.

            TDML Programs in the US. Apart from funding national programs, the federal government, through EPA (Environmental Protection Agency) section 319, requests each state to implement a TDML plan, to ensure improved water quality throughout the country. Each year, since 1996, the federal government makes cost-shared payments in millions of dollars through a variety of agricultural pollution abatement programs in the country. Furthermore, the 2002 Farm Bill recommends a significant increase of the TDML initiative funding throughout the United States. In this regard, the government expects immense public participation, hence tremendous water quality improvement in the country. Moreover, because the incentives provide seed capital to the participants, the government anticipates increased economic activities, hence performance throughout the country. However, despite increased government spending, available incentives are still inadequate to improve public participation and instigate significant economic growth in the country (Edmonds, 2016). Therefore, the US government must make the necessary adjustments to improve the performance of the TDML programs through increased public participation.

            Water Quality-Related Taxes in France. As stipulated by the corresponding regulations and legislations, European Union-compliant Wastewater treatment systems had been developed in all urban areas in France by 2015. While considering the reality of diminishing water quality, especially in urban centres, the French government has adopted several administrative strategies to improve efforts to protect water sources and contain water pollution in the country. Sewage treatment plants have already been developed in all towns with a population exceeding 2000 people. Moreover, as a result of effective policy implementation, sewage treatment in the country has reached 98 percent, hence significantly increasing the amount of oxygen in water bodies throughout the country.

Problems Targeted by the Case studies

            Thames Tideway Tunnel Project, London, UK. Because the overflow system channels excess flow to river Thames, it can lead to an increased discharge of untreated sewage; hence significantly affect aquatic life in the water body. With an increasingly high amount of untreated sewage entering the river annually, the situation escalated to become unmanageable in the 20th century. In this regard, after making several economic and social considerations, and in preparation of the Paralympic games that were scheduled to take place in the city in 2012, the UK government requested the Thames Tideway Tunnel Strategic Study agency to identify a solution in the shortest time possible in 2000. In a 2005 report, the agency recommends the Thames Tideway Tunnel Project (TTTP) as one of the feasible solutions to the problem. According to the project proposals, the construction works were expected to run from 2015 up to 2020. With a tunnel designed to run about 67 metres below the ground, and numerous water treatment plants, TTTP will immensely improve the quality of water in London. However, the UK government is expected to spend about 14.5 billion pounds in the five year project. In this regard, the amount of government’s spending during the five years of the project implementation will significantly increase (Alder & Appleton, 2017). Therefore, despite improving the quality of water in the city, TTTP will significantly impact the economic performance of the United Kingdom.

            Total Daily Maximum Load (TDML) in the US. TDML programs were developed to improve voluntary public participation in the provision of essential data about the quality of water in their surroundings. Both federal and state agencies utilize a plethora of voluntary incentive programs, including the Conservation Reserve Program and the Wetland Reserve Program, in an attempt to change farming practices, hence improve water quality. TDML-related programs both at the national and the federal state immensely rely on public participation especially in the provision of data to enhance planning. However, despite increased water quality improvement efforts both at the federal and the state level and huge cost-shared payments, there still exist watersheds throughout the US. Moreover, it is only few cases of water improvement that have been documented since the beginning of the TDML program decades ago. Therefore, the US must review the incentive programs with regard to effectiveness to ensure improved performance.

            Water Quality-Related Taxes in France. Apart from its immense beauty, France is one of the European countries with the highest living standards. Nevertheless, the country still encounters several environmental issues, especially regarding clean water accessibility. While the largest part of the population has access to clean water, a significant number of people in France have encountered tap water pollution. It is estimated that about 2.8 million people have encountered tap water pollution in the country. In many cases, increased tap-water contamination emanates from nitrates, pesticides or lead pollution. In this regard, the French government has implemented about 50 regulatory standards to mitigate the threat of tap water pollution, as well as improve the quality of water in point sources (Feuillette et al., 2016). However, some of the water-related regulations immensely increase the cost of the product. Thus, although about 95 percent of the French population is problem free, a number of citizens, especially in the rural areas, cannot afford the cost of the product.      

Theoretical Background of the Case Studies

            Total Daily Maximum Load (TDML) in the US. A TDML is used to calculate the maximum amount of a pollutant that is allowed to enter a water body. TDMLs establish the target reduction and assigns load reductions required to the sources of the pollutant. A source of pollution is described as either point source which receives a WLA (Wasteload Allocation), or nonpoint source that gets a LA (Load Allocation). WLA point sources include all sources that are regulated under the NPDES (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Program), such as the CAFOs (concentrated animal feeding operations), some storm water discharges and the wastewater treatment activities. All remaining pollutant sources and the natural background sources are assigned as LA. Apart from allocating the pollutant sources, a TDML must account for variations of water quality from one season to another, and include the MOS (margin of safety) to account for uncertainties in estimating the impact of pollutant reduction in meeting the water quality standards. Mathematically, TDML can be expressed using the following equation: TMDL = ΣWLA + ΣLA + MOS, where WLA is the sum of the point sources (Wasteload allocations), LA is the sum of nonpoint sources (load allocations), and MOS denotes the margin of safety. Water body/pollutant combinations refer to each pollutant threatening or impairing a water body. In this regards, if there are three pollutants threating water body, three TDML may be developed. Nevertheless, in some instances, a single TDML is used to address more than one water body/pollutant combinations.

                Water Quality-Related Taxes in France. Apart from the water taxes, France has identified a wide range of water quality improvement strategies which include public participation. In preparation for the initial action program of the WFD (Water Framework Directive), the French government identified over 5000 ground and surface water bodies, and documented a high number of small rivers. Prior to the WFD, the government, through the national water planning, France had identified more than 90 surface water catchments that were to be subjected to SAGE plan, including water catchment planning and public participation. Catchments, in turn, belong to six hydrographic districts that are identical with agences de l’eau territories created more than four decades ago. The territories are state agencies that are used to apply the polluter-pays principle. All six agencies are used to set levies on pollution discharge and water abstraction to ensure an economical use of the resource by farmers, domestic users and industries (Berardi, Sevestre, Tepaut & Vigneron, 2016). Thus, while using a strategy that combines the tax to discourage pollution and enhance proper water-use, and public participation in water-quality improvement initiatives, France has significantly increased the quality of water in the country.

A Comparative Analysis

            Although the Thames Tideway Tunnel Project in the UK possesses immense economic benefits, it is not a typical market mechanism for addressing water pollution. On the other hand, the water quality improvements programs, including legislations and regulations, and sewage treatment in France and the US incentives-based TDML programs are a perfect examples of market mechanisms for water quality improvements. Both programs are regulation-based and impact all households in their respective countries. Moreover, both the TDML and the French water quality-related legislations involve immense public participation in the fight against water pollution. Nevertheless, the programs depict several differences with regard to mode of administration, costs, objectives, as well as impacts. For example, while the French government focuses on imposing taxes on relevant products, the US government emphasizes an incentive-based strategy, hence spends immense amounts of the national budget on water safety. Moreover, while public participation in the US is voluntary, it is largely coerced in France. In this regard, while participation is guaranteed in France, TDML programs in the US record a significantly reduced level of public participation (Feuillette, et al., 2017). Therefore, compared to the US TDML programs, the France regulatory initiatives are highly effective in-terms of costs and outcomes, because the government spends immensely reduced amounts of the national budget, but include product accessibility drawbacks as well.

Program Cost

            Water quality improvement program both in France and the US possess immense similarities in terms of implementation, but have some considerable differences in terms of economic impacts. In France, most of the programs are implemented by the national government through stringent regulatory and legislative controls. Some of the water-safety legislations in the country impose taxes on the product, and the collected revenue is used to fund waste water treatment programs in urban centres. In this regard, the national government utilizes a significantly reduced portion of the national budget to improve water quality in urban centres throughout the country. While spending significantly reduced portions of the national budget, France can undertake immense water-safety programs and economic development activities, as well. Nevertheless, imposing increased amounts of tax can immensely reduce access to clean water, hence exposing a significant number of citizens to water pollution. On the other hand, the US utilizes an incentive program which is focused on encouraging the people to participate in efforts to contain water pollution in the entire country. It is estimated that the federal government utilizes millions of dollars every year in incentives to encourage public participation in TDML-related programs. Thus, water-safety programs significantly reduce the amount of money allocated to development projects, hence probably slowing-down economic growth in the country. Nevertheless, the federal government incentives can be used as seed capital to start conservation related businesses, hence stimulate immense economic activities in the country. Moreover, unlike the French programs that are primary focused on urban centres, the US TDML initiatives focus on the entire country hence can lead to immense economic activities in the entire country (Shortle, 2017). Therefore, while the French regulatory strategy includes significantly reduced cost of water treatments, the US incentive can trigger immense economic activities in the country, hence significantly improving the country’s economy, but considerably increases government spending.

Public Participation

            Participation in water quality programs in France and USA depicts considerable differences in terms of the number and diversity of people involved. While every citizen must indirectly participate through paying water taxes in France, participation in the United States is not guaranteed, because members are supposed to contribute voluntarily. Specifically, participation in the program immensely depends on the amount of incentives offered. It is expected that an increased amount of participation will attract remarkable participation, hence increasing chances of the program success. However, when the public deems the amount of incentives inadequate to warrant participation, the programs cannot produce the expected outcomes. In this regard, the country can experience immense economic impacts, because the increased budgetary allocations on the TDML programs cannot produce matching economic and water quality improvement outcomes. Therefore, because of increased public participation, hence water quality, France experiences considerably reduced amount of water contamination, hence leading to diminished health cases, such as waterborne illnesses that can be immensely expensive to manage for the national government.

Program Impacts

            . While public participation is guaranteed in France, the level of participation in the US depends on the amount of incentive offered. Because the amount of incentives is considerably small, the country experiences immense issues in water-quality management. For instance, there is no documented positive improvement of water quality in the United States since the inception of the TDML programs in 1996. On the other hand, in France, water-quality in the country is remarkable because of increased treatment activities facilitated by mandatory participation. Moreover, interaction with water pollution is significantly reduced; hence the government spends a small portion of the national budget on water-related health issues, such as water-borne ailments, in the country. In addition, because of reduced amount of chemical and pesticide usage in France, water bodies in the country have increased amounts of oxygen; hence can provide the necessary BOD to support aquatic life. In this regard, the French blue economy has immensely improved since the inception of the water quality improvement programs in the country. On the other hand, the US blue economy is significantly reducing, because of deteriorating reduced oxygen levels in water bodies (Renzetti & Dupont, 2018). However, because water quality is emphasized in the urban centres, people in rural areas may still face significant water pollution in France. Therefore, while the French strategy boosts economic activities in its water bodies, there is a need for improvements to ensure that the threat of water contamination cases is significantly reduced in rural areas. 


            Regulation based water quality improvement programs are highly effective in terms of cost reduction and participation improvement, but include considerable barriers to product accessibility. In France, water-safety-related laws significantly increase the cost of the product, hence negatively affecting affordability. In this regard, poor people, especially in rural areas cannot afford the product; hence implementation of a tax waiver program is recommended to enhance uniform accessibility of the product. Nevertheless, after collecting significantly increased amount of revenue, the French government funds immense water treatment activities to improve the quality of available water. In this regard, most of the water bodies in the country possess adequate oxygen to sustain aquatic life, hence considerably improving the performance of the country’s blue economy. On the other hand, the incentive based strategy used by the United States government to support water-quality improvements is highly inefficient, especially because of registering reduced level of public participation. The amounts of incentives offered by the federal government are inadequate to inspire the necessary public participation. In this regard, despite spending an increased portion of the national budget, water quality, hence the blue economy in the US is diminishing. However, the incentives offered can immensely stimulate the country’s economy when used as seed capital to fund small scale conservation businesses. Thus, while France should consider introducing tax waivers to enhance water accessibility for rural based consumers, the US should consider supporting the small scale businesses started with the incentives as seed capital, to significantly enhance economic performance in the country.


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