Producing Effective Water Quality Protections for Private Forests: A Comparative Study of Regional Pollution Control Programs in California

EPA Grant Number: FP917439
Title: Producing Effective Water Quality Protections for Private Forests: A Comparative Study of Regional Pollution Control Programs in California
Investigators: Carvill, Sarah
Institution: University of California - Santa Cruz
EPA Project Officer: Zambrana, Jose
Project Period: September 1, 2012 through August 31, 2015
Project Amount: $126,000
RFA: STAR Graduate Fellowships (2012) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Academic Fellowships , Fellowship - Environmental Policy


Developing water pollution control programs that are responsive to public concerns, easily implemented by the regulated community and feasible for agencies to enforce are a significant challenge for state governments. In 1999, California instructed each of its regional water boards to write new regulations for several polluting industries that had previously operated under general waivers. This research will analyze the resulting “conditional waiver” programs for California’s timber industry to identify: (1) which regions produced the most effective policies for controlling the water quality impacts of timber harvesting; and (2) how stakeholders involved themselves in the process and with what results.


California’s effort to control timber-related discharges creates the conditions for a “natural experiment” in policy development and implementation. The regional boards designed and began enforcing their timber programs under a uniform legal framework and within the same time period, but the strategies of different stakeholders, their relative power and the features of the adopted policies vary among jurisdictions. This study will examine the timber programs from the water quality regions where most of California’s logging takes place, combining within-case analysis and cross-case comparison to elucidate the effectiveness of each timber policy. Data will include agency memos, public comments, hearing transcripts, monitoring and enforcement data, press coverage and original interviews with a variety of informants.

Expected Results:

Factors such as the difficulty of safely and reliably monitoring runoff from active harvest areas, the spatial extent of water quality regions and the number of hours required for participation in pre- and post-harvest inspections may pose feasibility challenges for regulatory agencies; these challenges, which have the potential to affect policy outcomes, may or may not be accounted for in policy outputs. Additionally, the structure of the timber industry and its economic importance vary regionally in California, and timberland ownership patterns differ across jurisdictions. These differences may have bearing on the willingness of industry interests to work together to secure favorable policy outputs and on the degree of organization of environmental advocates in the region.

Potential to Further Environmental/Human Health Protection

This research will yield useful information for state agencies charged with developing and refining water quality protections by providing detailed examples of more and less effective regulatory programs and uncovering key implementation challenges facing such programs. By linking variation in policy outputs to features of the political and economic contexts in which they were developed, this research will highlight the settings in which regulatory policy may be more or less likely to succeed, as well as the factors that encourage public involvement in the policy process.

Supplemental Keywords:

policy, water quality, forestry

Progress and Final Reports:

  • 2013
  • 2014
  • Final