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Has Surface Water Quality Improved Since the Clean Water Act?

  • V. Kerry Smith
  • Carlos Valcarcel Wolloh

On the fortieth anniversary of the Clean Water Act this paper reports the first quantitative assessment of the aggregate trends in water quality in the U.S. using a single standard over the years 1975 to 2011. The analysis suggests that fresh water lakes for the nation as a whole are about at the same quality levels as they were in 1975. In short, viewed in the aggregate, nothing has changed. An assessment of the factors influencing the aggregates also suggests that water quality appears to be affected by the business cycle. This result calls into question the simple descriptions of the change in environmental quality with economic growth that are associated with the Environmental Kuznets Curve.

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File URL: http://www.nber.org/papers/w18192.pdf
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Paper provided by National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc in its series NBER Working Papers with number 18192.

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Date of creation: Jun 2012
Date of revision:
Handle: RePEc:nbr:nberwo:18192
Note: EEE
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  1. Roback, Jennifer, 1982. "Wages, Rents, and the Quality of Life," Journal of Political Economy, University of Chicago Press, vol. 90(6), pages 1257-78, December.
  2. Nicholas Z. Muller & Robert Mendelsohn & William Nordhaus, 2011. "Environmental Accounting for Pollution in the United States Economy," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 101(5), pages 1649-75, August.
  3. Nicholas Z. Muller & Robert Mendelsohn, 2009. "Efficient Pollution Regulation: Getting the Prices Right," American Economic Review, American Economic Association, vol. 99(5), pages 1714-39, December.
  4. Daniel J. Phaneuf & V. Kerry Smith & Raymond B. Palmquist & Jaren C. Pope, 2008. "Integrating Property Value and Local Recreation Models to Value Ecosystem Services in Urban Watersheds," Land Economics, University of Wisconsin Press, vol. 84(3), pages 361-381.
  5. Richard T. Carson, 2010. "The Environmental Kuznets Curve: Seeking Empirical Regularity and Theoretical Structure," Review of Environmental Economics and Policy, Association of Environmental and Resource Economists, vol. 4(1), pages 3-23, Winter.
  6. David Albouy, 2008. "Are Big Cities Bad Places to Live? Estimating Quality of Life across Metropolitan Areas," NBER Working Papers 14472, National Bureau of Economic Research, Inc.
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