Addressing the Challenges of Eliminating Non-point Source Pollution

One particularly interesting presentation was on the future of regulating non-point sources of pollution.  Under the Clean Water Act, a point source of pollution refers to an easily ascertainable point where the pollution is occurring—such as a pipe or a ditch. 

In contrast, with respect to non-point pollution, it is not easy to track where the pollution is actually originating.  An example of non-point source pollution would be agricultural runoff.  Currently, the majority of water pollution originates from non-point sources of pollution.  This is largely due to the numerous difficulties in regulating this form of pollution.

Consequently, several speakers provided perspective on how to clean up non-point source pollution in a collaborative manner.  They recognized that there is little incentive to eliminate non-point source pollution for oftentimes unknowing offenders.  For example, in the agricultural arena, infrastructure investments to deal with non-point source pollution are costly with little to no benefit to the producer.

The speakers talked about the Farm Bill’s role, along with the leadership of local government, in helping to incentivize the reduction of this problem.  The speakers highlighted a number of quite creative approaches that were being utilized nationwide.  Of course, many barriers currently exist to implementation.  It remains to be seen what the future holds with regard to this area of regulation under the Clean Water Act.