The Failure of EPA's Water Quality Reforms: From Environment-Enhancing Competition to Uniformity and Polluter Profits Academic Article uri icon


  • Since 1970, pollution control in the United States has centered on national level regulatory approaches built on federal command-and-control regimes. Enacted in reaction to well-publicized "failures" of markets, common law, and state and local regulation such as the "killer smogs" of the 1950s and 1960s and the "burning" of Cleveland's Cuyahoga River in 1969 modem environmental statutes shifted authority away from states, local governments, and private property holders to the national government. Section I reviews the history of federal and state regulation of water quality and highlights the delicate balance of authority that has emerged between various levels of government. Section II examines why federalism is particularly important in water quality efforts. Section III summarizes the EPA's recent water quality regulatory initiatives. Section IV offers alternatives to EPA's approach, emphasizing common law and property rights solutions to continuing water quality problems.

author list (cited authors)

  • Morriss, A. P., Yandle, B., & Meiners, R. E.

publication date

  • January 2001