A case for nutrient management governance reformation for increased protection of water resources
Understanding the forces that create eutrophication conditions are critical to understanding how to properly manage the negative implications of agricultural practices. Furthermore, it is important to understand how the regulations mandated in the biosolids management industry limit and minimize these risks. An examination of what eutrophication is; its history in the Great Lakes, the consequences of it and which stakeholders are impacted will illustrate that the eutrophication conditions that cause algae blooms are an increasingly important and complex problem to understand and manage. But most importantly this understanding is required to create an effective solution. By understanding the problem thoroughly it will allow for the creation of a governance model that can have effective problem management tools. As mentioned earlier, the management of biosolids is a heavily regulated industry, and arguably one of the strongest under the agriculture umbrella. As such a review of the regulations with respect to land application of biosolids throughout the five jurisdictions that are in the Lake Erie watershed area will illustrate the strength of the regulations to establish how the regulatory framework of the industry works. By understanding the regulations an appreciation will be gained for what implications there are from the beneficial reuse of biosolids on agricultural lands, its impacts on water quality and climate change; as well as what are the implications of biosolids use on public and private stakeholders. Ultimately through the regulatory framework in place for biosolids management across numerous jurisdictions, the practice when operated under these regulations is a safe and important operation. Additionally, a review of other sources of P that contribute to the eutrophication problem will illustrate that nutrient management is a complex macro problem and needs an effective governance model that transcends agricultural and other sectors that contribute to the problem. This is important because these other sources of nutrient loading are enabling the propagation of conditions that allow for eutrophication. As mentioned previously, biosolids simply fall under the umbrella of agricultural practices. These other sources of P, are also problematic and illustrate that other sources also are negatively impacting the natural environment and bodies of water; and as such will be reviewed to assess their contribution to the problem. To add to the complexity of the problem other sources that create increased suitable conditions for the exacerbation of eutrophication like eroding or degraded soil quality and climate change weather events will also be reviewed. It's clear that there is no unitary contributor of P that poses a significant challenge to the governance of the problem. The agriculture industry is identified as the primary cause of nutrient loading of P into our watersheds leading to eutrophication conditions. But this is where a significant challenge begins as the agricultural industry is generalized into a singular industry. But the reality is there are many differing agricultural operations that occur under its banner. As such, nutrient management under a generalized banner is a wicked problem. To overcome these challenges a review of the industry integration, policy regimes and governance models is required to understand the challenges more thoroughly in order to pave way for an enhanced governance model. It is important to identify the various agricultural operations to quantify their contributions to the eutrophication problem because better integration of these source polluters is required to build a sustainable governance model to manage the problem effectively. All stakeholders need to come together to manage these problems in a governance model that takes all factors into account. Without all parties contributing there is a significant challenge in creating effective and lasting institutions. Lastly, I will provide an assessment of where we are currently, where we need to be and how we can get there. This will include alternative approaches, policy considerations as well as concluding remarks. This is important since finding a solution is imperative, as this issue is causing a host of concern and problems for many stakeholders. Looking at Lake Erie, the complexity is apparent. The stakeholders are far reaching, they are from two sovereign nations, with five subnational governments and numerous local authorities. The nongovernmental stakeholders impacted can include but are not limited to groups like: farmers, residents, business, flora and fauna and aquatic ecosystems. All of which need to be included in the management of the challenge. It will be confirmed that there is no unitary actor to blame for the increased nutrient loading that is contributing to the conditions that allow for eutrophication. While agriculture is primarily accused of being the major problem it must be clear that this is a generalization that is unfair to the many other players that fall under the agricultural sector banner, like biosolids.