Agricultural Water Pollution Control: An Interdisciplinary Approach

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Environmental Management





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Regulation and control of agricultural water pollution is unique and difficult to accomplish. Water quality standards are often proposed without adequate consideration of the overall economic impact on agricultural production. This article illustrates how economists and physical scientists can cooperate to develop appropriate control strategies for agricultural water pollution. Data provided by physical scientists and economists are used in a linear programming model to describe salt discharge as a function of water management, production levels, and an associated effluent charge. Four water management activities were chosen on the basis of different costs of production (including a parametrically varied effluent charge), water requirements, alfalfa yields, and levels of salt discharge. Results indicate that when the effluent charge is low (<$0.20/metric ton salt discharged), maximum production with maximum salt discharge is most profitable. As the effluent charge is increased ($0.20–$0.40/metric ton salt discharged), it becomes progressively less profitable to produce alfalfa at maximum levels of pollutant discharge. When the effluent charge is >$0.40/metric ton salt discharged, alfalfa production is no longer economically feasible. An important aspect of this approach is that it permits policy makers to identify explicitly the relationship between the environmental standard and the effect on agricultural production.

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