Projects Funded for Joseph Shapiro


Evolving Regulation of Water Quality

  • Joseph Shapiro


Specific Objectives of the Project:
The project includes four components:
1. Write analysis re-evaluating the economic logic that the Environmental Protection Agency used to justify the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.
2. Drawing on 2021 keynote I gave to Association of Environmental & Resource Economists, write summary article for Review of Environmental Economics and Policy
3. Use computer vision and artificial intelligence algorithms determining the scope of these water quality regulations
4. Study how drinking water policy affects human health

Summary of Results:
1. This was published at REEP (Keiser et al., listed at bottom), discussed with EPA staff, and the underlying report is cited extensively in the economic analysis of the Biden Administration’s new Clean Water Act rule (the revised definition of the ‘Waters of the United States’), cited below.
2. This was published as a separate article at REEP (citation listed at bottom of this report).
3. I have substantially advanced the research using computer vision and artificial intelligence algorithms. The EPA’s Economic Analysis includes text specifically calling for this analysis, which EPA staff told us they included to give more time for us to finish the analysis and so they could then use it in their new rulings. The status as of 8/29/22 is that this research has a convolutional neural network that uses near-infrared wavelengths from the National Agriculture Imagery Program (NAIP); rasterized data from the National Wetlands Inventory; and it is in the process of adding rasterized data from the National Hydrography Dataset, Soil Survey data (SSURGO), Sentinel satellite data, and others. The Supreme Court will hear hearings on Sackett v. EPA, a very related case, on October 3, 2022, and our goal is to publish a high-quality scholarly journal article before the Supreme Court’s decision is released in spring 2023, so a revised EPA rule could use our analysis as a potential input. While the analysis is moving forward rapidly every week, completing it carefully and fully with all these data takes a good amount of time in total.
4. This work has advanced substantially; the analysis has a working panel micro database of drinking water pollution measures for over 35 US states including many pesticides, linked to census blocks where people who drink the water live, health outcomes, and investments made through the Safe Drinking Water Act.


Recent Water Quality Policy and Agriculture

  • Joseph Shapiro


Specific Objectives of the Project:
Re-examine the economic logic that the US Environmental Protection Agency used to justify the Navigable Waters Protection Rule; use machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms to determine the scope of these water quality regulations.

Project Report/Summary of Results:
The first component resulted in a published publicly available report that received media coverage. It also resulted in a peer-reviewed journal article in Science.

The second component trailed a number of graduate students, and resulted in a preliminary set of results and series of meetings with senior staff at the US Environmental Protection Agency to convey the approach and initial results. This is an ongoing project that will involve research and policymaker outreach over multiple years as the EPA revises the Clean Water Act.


Water Quality Regulation and California Agriculture

  • Joseph Shapiro


Specific Objectives of the Project: Assess the efficiency of water quality regulation over the last 50 years, the importance of the weak regulation for water pollution for agriculture, and the potential of new regulatory tools to efficiently regulate water pollution.

Project Report/Summary of Results:
With support from this grant, this project resulted in two papers published in high-impact journals. These papers investigate the effectiveness and efficiency of US water quality policy, including soil and water conservation programs sponsored by the U.S. Department of Agriculture. The research reviews the last 50 years, discusses differences between regulation of point (primarily industrial and municipal) and non-point (primarily agricultural) source regulation, including data analysis from records in California and other states. The research discusses some new regulatory efforts, including Total Maximum Daily Load requirements, cap-and-trade markets for water pollution, and recent debates over regulating water quality in agriculture through debates following the Supreme Court’s SWANCC and Rapanos decisions, including the Obama Administration’s Waters of the United States rule.

This and related research has been widely discussed in the media, including over 20
(mostly national) news stories, received 800 comments and 45,000 views as the top science story on Reddit, and was featured in a Voxeu article.

This project also compiled extensive drinking water data for research on drinking water quality regulation. Extensive cleaning has been undertaken of the drinking water data, and ongoing research is linking this to other datasets for use in ongoing research on drinking water quality and agriculture.