Can Economic Modeling Take Some of the Guesswork Out of Environmental Policymaking?
For three days in August 2014, residents of Toledo, Ohio were forced to use bottled water for drinking, brushing teeth, food prep, even bathing children. Cyanobacteria from algal blooms in Lake Erie—blooms fed by phosphorus traced to agriculture runoff in the lake’s Western Basin—had poisoned the municipal water supply.
Policymakers knew they had a problem with Lake Erie as early as 2009, when the EPA’s first-ever National Lakes Assessment revealed that more than 20 percent of lakes in the U.S. have high levels of phosphorus or nitrogen. It’s fairly easy to defer action on a report. It’s impossible to ignore nearly half a million people without drinking water. But exactly what actions are necessary?
The question of what actions to take, and what they're long term successes or failings might be, would be greatly enhanced when examined through the lens of economic modeling.