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Valuing Ground Water: Economic Concepts and Approaches
Watershed Management. Under Section 319 of the CWA, EPA makes grants to states to address surface and ground water NPS pollution on a watershed basis. States typically make cost-sharing funds available to farmers to implement conservation measures to reduce erosion and sedimentation, and to implement agricultural chemical best management practices (BMPs).
Wellhead Protection. Under the SDWA, EPA provides some funding to states to support local wellhead protection (WHP) programs. States help public water suppliers identify the WHP area, typically the 20-year time of travel area for the community's wellfield. Once the WHP area has been identified, communities are encouraged to inventory potential contaminant sources and to use their zoning authorities to keep incompatible land uses and practices outside of the WHP area. Existing incompatible uses are encouraged to take extra precautions to prevent contamination or to relocate outside the WHP area.
Planning and Zoning. Local communities and counties may exercise their zoning authorities to regulate or limit land uses that may contaminate ground water. Some states may use their facility licensing authority to protect ground water when licensing the location of hazardous waste disposal and similar facilities.
Valuation and Superfund Site Cleanup
The original 1980 Superfund ground water remediation policies were cost insensitive: cleanup cost was not heavily considered in establishing site cleanup standards. This changed in the 1986 Superfund amendments (SARA). Under the current federal Superfund program, remediation actions must be ''cost-effective over the period of potential exposure or contamination" (42 U.S.C.A. 9605(a)(7); Seiver, 1996). Thus as a basic principle, ground water contamination cleanups must be "cost effective." Of course, cleanup standards also significantly influence cleanup costs. In addition, EPA must establish national cleanup priorities for potential cleanup sites. Cleanup priority criteria include: (1) the affected population, (2) the specific health risk associated with the hazardous materials to be remediated, (3) the potential for direct human contact, (4) destruction of sensitive ecosystems, and (5) natural resource damage affecting the human food chain (42 U.S.C.A. (a)(8)(A)). These cleanup priority criteria suggest that some ground water may be more valuable than other ground water based on the economic and environmental demand for the ground water.
Perhaps the most controversial Superfund issue revolves around quality objectives. Ground water, for example, is generally required to be cleaned up to drinking water standards, regardless of the expected future use of the water. Critics contend that such policies ignore the real, more limited risk of the contaminated costs, and drive up cleanup costs to the point that the Superfund program may face bankruptcy (NRC, 1994). EPA may, however, relax ground water