Public Utility Districts and Payment for Watershed Services: Explaining Water Users’ Willingness to Pay
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State and federal regulations have effectively reduced many sources of pollution to our waterways, and have been especially effective at reducing point-source pollution, such as industrial pollutants from factory outfalls. However, non-point source pollution – generally carried into waterbodies via stormwater runoff – poses a greater regulatory challenge. The 2012 U.S. EPA National Summary of Impaired Waters classifies more than 41,000 waters as impaired (on the 303d list). The water quality of many of these waterways is negatively affected by polluted runoff from agricultural, industrial, commercial and residential land uses within watersheds. These land uses increase the amount of impervious surfaces within a watershed – thereby increasing the speed and volume of stormwater runoff – and also introduce contaminants to that runoff such as residual pesticides from agricultural lands, chemicals from industrial and commercial sites, and common household pollutants like oil and paint, washed from roads and driveways. In the U.S. land use, including where and what type of development is allowed within watersheds, is generally governed through local laws and regulations. Therefore, it is local and regional governments, including cities, counties and public water and utility districts that are most often responsible for enacting and implementing land use strategies to protect watershed health.