Dr. Christopher Cox
Dr. Christopher Cox
Topic: Nutrient Pollution of Oceans and Aquatic Environment
Christopher Cox, who is from Saint Lucia in the Eastern Caribbean, is a Programme Officer attached to UNEP's Global Progamme of Action for the Protection of the Marine Environment from Land-based Ac...
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Number of questions: [1]
Posted on 31/03/2015 09:38:03
Dear Dr. Christopher Cox,

I am an undergraduate student of Marine Science in Brisbane, Australia. My question is short but I am very interested to find out the answer. How could we ever make it attractive for the agricultural sector and city managers to control the amount, and kind, of nutrients in their runoff, when it is in no way economically viable for them to do so? Should we establish laws? And if so, wouldn't we receive some serious opposition along the way?

I am looking forward to your ideas.

Kind regards,

Pauline (from Netherlands)
Dear Pauline,
Thank you for your question. You are right in suggesting that the economic incentive in terms of compelling implementation of good practices is minimal, if not something that has to be subsidized. Indeed, that is what happens in the case of municipal wastewater treatment in many places where the costs are often taken up by the state (costs offset by other revenue streams). For fertilizer application for example, a case can be made for more efficient and targetted use that will bring cost savings to the farmer; for livestock production, diversion of waste and re-use in other agricultural systems can also have some economic spin-off benefits. What needs to be sold to the stakeholders (farmers, industry and others that contribute to nutrient loading) is to weigh the economic losses through compromised water supply, degraded aquatic habitats (and compromised fish stocks), degraded recreational water quality in tourism areas. If these impacts are well understood by communities it will hopefully create the needed buy-in at all levels. It is a challenging process nonetheless that has to be combination of many approaches but needs to include means to improve financial incentives allow for the implementation of appropriate solutions.