The commoditization of intangibles: Overcoming impediments to reducing water pollution through market incentives

Alex Echols

Synesis: A Journal of Science, Technology, Ethics, and Policy 2010; 1:T38-46

Through law-making and regulations point source water pollution control has advanced substantially in the United States. However, non-point source pollution has been more difficult to address through regulation. Development of innovative conservation strategies, like market incentives that reward actual performance of deliverables offer to improve the environment, improve taxpayer and private environmental return on investment and put environmental quality and economic opportunity into alignment instead of opposition. The Sand County Foundation has undertaken the development, deployment, testing and evaluation of a market- based incentive program for farmers that can be replicated on a large scale throughout the US and in other nations. Among the factors addressed by this project are: documentation of environmental performance of specific management practices, documentation of costs, establishing common metrics that may be used by “producers” and “consumers”, and opening forums for discussion of exchange of ecosystem services.

Key words: Clean Water Act, nitrogen pollution, non-point source, market incentive, ecosystem services, environmental performance.