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Benefit and cost insights from the Rural Clean Water Program

Piper, Steven, Young, C. Edwin, Magleby, Ricard
Journal of soil and water conservation in India 1989 v.44 no.3 pp. 203
National Water Quality Assessment Program, agricultural land, agricultural runoff, aquatic habitat, bacteria, best management practices, economic costs, fisheries, groundwater, nutrients, pesticides, recreation, rural water supply, scientists, sediments, water pollution, water quality, water treatment, United States
Scientists generally label agriculture as a major contributor of non-point-source water pollution in the United States (2). Runoff from agricultural land can carry sediment, nutrients, bacteria, and pesticides to downstream water resources. In addition, nutrients and bacteria from agricultural activities can contaminate groundwater supplies. These residuals degrade water quality and impair water-related recreation, water supplies and treatment, commercial fishing, water storage, aquatic habitats, and aesthetic qualities. Using best management practices (BMPs) on agricultural land, nonpoint-source pollution and related water use impairments can be reduced. We evaluated the experimental Rural Clean Water Program (RCWP) from the standpoint of the likely level of economic benefits and costs that might accrue from reducing agricultural nonpoint-source pollution. We identified project characteristics that contribute to high, moderate, and low or uncertain gross and net benefits. Our analysis is speculative because the program is not fully completed and water quality impacts and changes in water use at each project location are still being documented. But we believe the study provides insights and guidance for future nonpoint-source control programs, such as the $400 million non-point-source federal grant program included in the Water Quality Act of 1987.