Date of Award

2014

Degree Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Graduate Group

City & Regional Planning

First Advisor

Thomas L. Daniels

Abstract

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has reported that over 45 percent of the nation's waterbodies are impaired and has identified nonpoint sources as the major contributors to water quality problems. Although federal and state government agencies have largely controlled pollution from point sources through infrastructure grants and permit programs, few statutes and regulations target nonpoint sources. One exception is the Clean Water Act's Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) regulations that require the states to identify causes and sources of impairments and allocate pollutant loads for point and nonpoint sources to achieve the fishable, swimmable standard of water quality. However, the federal and state governments have made little progress towards implementation of TMDLs and enforcement of other nonpoint source pollution controls. Government entities at all three levels--federal, state, and local--have not enforced requirements for pollution control, have lacked coordination with interested parties, and have implemented primarily rigid command-and-control programs. Traditional nonpoint source control programs and policies are not effective in reducing nonpoint source pollution. As an alternative to traditional regulation and program approaches, federal policy has moved to manage pollution in our waterways with flexible and innovative programs, such as water pollution trading and offsets.

This research evaluates nonpoint source pollution policies and programs at the federal, state, and local levels, using the Chesapeake Bay watershed as a case study. The Chesapeake Bay, the largest estuary in the United States, is not meeting water quality standards due to high concentrations of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) and sediment, among other contaminants. This research determines the types of regulations and programs that government entities have implemented within a multi-state watershed and assesses their impacts on water quality. Using qualitative and quantitative measures, this study evaluates environmental impacts, economic factors, land-based indicators, as well as, program structure and implementation on nonpoint source pollution. Additionally, this research identifies factors that contribute to the effectiveness of nonpoint source pollution reduction programs. The multi-criteria state evaluation and local watershed prioritization discern the major characteristics that result in effective programs and policies and provide insight into nonpoint source program and policy improvements.

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