Researchers at West Virginia Universitys West Virginia Water Research Institute (WVWRI) want to trade problems for profit as a way to reduce pollution in the Potomac River. Agriculture, industrial discharges, and suburban D.C. growth in the region have been blamed for polluting the Potomac River. The pollution ends up in the Chesapeake Bay.
The Natural Resources Conservation Service awarded the WVU WVWRI $527,000 to be matched by contributions from partners for a total $1 million activity to develop a water quality trading program to promote new and less expensive ways to prevent pollution which is harming the River and the Bay.
Also, the award will help support the Chesapeake Bay Agreement which West Virginia signed in 2003. The state has until 2010 to reduce pollution entering the Bay from the Potomac. If West Virginia fails to meet the terms of the agreement, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency will impose stringent mandatory pollutant reductions. that could hurt the regional economy, said Paul Ziemkiewicz, WVWRI director.
Trading programs have the potential to restore water bodies like the Chesapeake Bay more quickly and at less cost,said Ziemkiewicz.
Under a trading program, a states environmental protection agency, farmers, manufacturers, wastewater treatment systems and other stakeholders within a watershed collectively decide pollution reduction targets. Those who reduce greater amounts of pollution than required can earn credits that can be sold to others who have higher treatment costs.
For example, it may cost a manufacturer ten times more than a farmer to remove one pound of nitrogen. Under the Clean Water Act, point source water dischargers like the manufacturer are required to remove the nitrogen, but non-point source dischargers like the farmer are not required to do so.
The enterprising farmer could install inexpensive pollution control systems and earncreditsthat he can then sell to the manufacturer. Or the manufacturer maydepositfunds in abankthat the farmer may draw upon to install best management practices to decrease nitrogen runoff from the farm. The farmer could make money, the manufacturer saves money, and the river is cleaner than before.
Water quality trading will enlist market forces to encourage private sector support for restoring water bodies polluted by legacy and non-point source pollution. NRCS s grant represents a major step in moving trading forward in West Virginia,said Ziemkiewicz.
Seventy water quality trading programs exist or are being developed nationwide.
Trading should encourage innovation because individuals can profit by using the most efficient control technologies,said Ron Hilliard, West Virginia state conservationist for NRCS .
Trading promises to provide effective environmental protection at the lowest cost, and thats a win-win for the Chesapeake Bay and local economies,said Rebecca W. Hanmer, director of the federal-state Chesapeake Bay Program. West Virginia will become the third state among Chesapeake Bay Agreement partners with an active trading program.
Project collaborators include WVU WVWRI , NRCS, West Virginia Conservation Agency, West Virginia Department of Agriculture, West Virginia Farm Bureau, the Farm Service Agency, World Resources Institute, The Conservation Fund and local stakeholders who will work with West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection.