Consequences of the Clean Water Act and the Demand for Water Quality

94 Pages Posted: 23 Jan 2017

See all articles by David Keiser

David Keiser

Resource Economics

Joseph S. Shapiro

University of California, Berkeley; National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER)

Multiple version iconThere are 4 versions of this paper

Date Written: January 2017

Abstract

Since the 1972 U.S. Clean Water Act, government and industry have invested over $1 trillion to abate water pollution, or $100 per person-year. Over half of U.S. stream and river miles, however, still violate pollution standards. We use the most comprehensive set of files ever compiled on water pollution and its determinants, including 50 million pollution readings from 240,000 monitoring sites and a network model of all U.S. rivers, to study water pollution's trends, causes, and welfare consequences. We have three main findings. First, water pollution concentrations have fallen substantially. Between 1972 and 2001, for example, the share of waters safe for fishing grew by 12 percentage points. Second, the Clean Water Act's grants to municipal wastewater treatment plants, which account for $650 billion in expenditure, caused some of these declines. Through these grants, it cost around $1.5 million (2014 dollars) to make one river-mile fishable for a year. We find little displacement of municipal expenditure due to a federal grant. Third, the grants' estimated effects on housing values are smaller than the grants' costs; we carefully discuss welfare implications.

Suggested Citation

Keiser, David and Shapiro, Joseph S., Consequences of the Clean Water Act and the Demand for Water Quality (January 2017). NBER Working Paper No. w23070, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2903737

David Keiser (Contact Author)

Resource Economics ( email )

Resource Economics
UMass
Amherst, MA 01003
United States

Joseph S. Shapiro

University of California, Berkeley ( email )

HOME PAGE: http://joseph-s-shapiro.com

National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER) ( email )

1050 Massachusetts Avenue
Cambridge, MA 02138
United States

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