Agricultural nitrate contamination of ground water: An evaluation of environmental policy

M. L. Livingston, D. C. Cory

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

15 Scopus citations


The contribution of agriculture to nitrate pollution of surface and ground water is a growing concern throughout the world. The objective of this article is to evaluate the current environmental policy governing nitrate contamination of ground water in the South Platte alluvial aquifer. In particular, the `best management practice' approach is assessed in its relationship to optimal policy design. First, the current physical environmental problem and existing institutional arrangements are described. Second, legal and economic criteria are brought to bear on the question of appropriate policy design. Finally, the strengths and weaknesses of the existing policy are evaluated in this context and changes in policy that would increase effectiveness are recommended. Considerable justification is found for state-initiated control because victims of ground water pollution are dispersed and risk assessment is technically demanding. However, ex post elements of existing policy must be improved, perhaps through targeting and some devolution in monitoring and enforcement responsibilities.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1311-1317
Number of pages7
JournalJournal of the American Water Resources Association
Issue number6
StatePublished - 1998
Externally publishedYes


  • Best management practices
  • Economics
  • Environmental policy
  • Ground water
  • Nitrate pollution
  • South Platte
  • Water policy
  • Water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Ecology
  • Water Science and Technology
  • Earth-Surface Processes


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