OECD Studies on Water

2224-5081 (online)
2224-5073 (print)
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Water is essential for economic growth, human health, and the environment. Yet governments around the world face significant challenges in managing their water resources effectively. The problems are multiple and complex: billions of people are still without access to safe water and adequate sanitation; competition for water is increasing among the different uses and users; and major investment is required to maintain and improve water infrastructure in OECD and non-OECD countries. This OECD series on water provides policy analysis and guidance on the economic, financial and governance aspects of water resources management. These aspects generally lie at the heart of the water problem and hold the key to unlocking the policy puzzle.

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Diffuse Pollution, Degraded Waters

Diffuse Pollution, Degraded Waters

Emerging Policy Solutions You do not have access to this content

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22 Mar 2017
9789264269064 (PDF) ;9789264269057(print)

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After decades of regulation and investment to reduce point source water pollution, OECD countries still face water quality challenges (e.g. eutrophication) from diffuse agricultural and urban sources of pollution, that is disperse pollution from surface runoff, soil filtration and atmospheric deposition. The relative lack of progress reflects the complexities of controlling multiple pollutants from multiple sources, their high spatial and temporal variability, associated transactions costs, and limited political acceptability of regulatory measures. This report outlines the water quality challenges facing OECD countries today, presents a range of policy instruments and innovative case studies of diffuse pollution control, and concludes with an integrated policy framework to tackle diffuse water pollution. An optimal approach will likely entail a mix of policy interventions reflecting the basic OECD principles of water quality management – pollution prevention, treatment at source, the polluter pays and beneficiary pays principles, equity, and policy coherence.

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  • Foreword and Acknowledgements

    Water of adequate quality is an increasingly scarce resource. Substantial investments in wastewater treatment plants and progress in controlling point sources of pollution have contributed to significant improvements in water quality in recent decades. But a focus on point source pollution as a means of improving water quality is reaching its limits. Water pollution from unregulated diffuse sources of pollution from both urban and rural areas continues to rise. Unless attention is turned to these sources, further deterioration of water quality and freshwater ecosystems can be expected as human populations grow, industrial and agricultural production intensifies, and climate change causes significant alteration to the hydrological cycle.

  • Acronyms and Abbreviations
  • Executive summary

    Decades of regulation and large investments to reduce point source water pollution have brought substantial gains for the economy, human health, environment and social values. But water quality challenges endure in OECD countries as a result of under-regulated diffuse sources of pollution. Eutrophication, a form of water pollution due mainly to agricultural runoff of excess nutrients, is the most prevalent challenge globally.

  • The Water Quality Challenge

    This chapter takes stock of recent information and data on challenges related to water quality in OECD countries. It zooms in on the water quality issues facing OECD cities, the effects of water quantity and climate change on water quality, and the ongoing challenge of managing diffuse pollution, in particular, nutrient loading.

  • An overview of the main water pollutants in OECD countries
  • Economic costs and policy approaches to control diffuse source water pollution

    This chapter looks at the impacts and costs of water pollution to society and argues who should pay for, and benefit from, improvements in water quality. The chapter lastly inventories the range of policies in place in OECD countries to manage water quality and discusses the importance of policy coherence across policy domains for the management of diffuse pollution.

  • Emerging policy instruments for the control of diffuse source water pollution

    This chapter examines innovative policy approaches to help meet the challenge of diffuse pollution. It presents and draws lessons from a select number of case studies submitted by OECD member countries and discussed at the OECD Workshop on Innovative Policy Responses to Water Quality Management held in March 2016. All case studies are provided in full at www.oecd.org/water.

  • A policy framework for diffuse source water pollution management

    This final chapter presents a policy framework for diffuse source water pollution management and concludes with recommendations for central government. The framework and recommendations are based on the outcomes from the OECD Workshop on Innovative Policy Responses for Water Quality Management, and draws upon the policy analysis of case studies throughout the previous chapters of the report.

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