VI. Conclusions and Recommendations
- Urban nonpoint source pollution constitutes one of the most complex-scientifically and politically-environmental challenges facing the Great Lakes community.
- Some aspects of urban nonpoint source pollution can be ameliorated through managerial or technological strategies and practices. However the problem is also rooted in basic aspects of North American society, including dominant patterns of low-density suburban development. Therefore, political, as well as technical, solutions are required. Science can play a role in facilitating both kinds of solutions.
- Effective management of urban nonpoint source pollution requires a variety of approaches to research: basic research to identify emerging problems (such as the input of pharmaceutical products into waterways); focused research on managerial and technological innovations, with a view to continual improvement of BMPs; research aimed at perfecting selected environmental indicators, particularly those that allow for comparison with national and international trends, as well as a steady, sustained commitment to monitoring; and public communication and involvement in science, including community monitoring activities.
- Management of urban nonpoint source pollution is highly fragmented, discouraging ecosystem or watershed-based approaches. To be effective, solutions require coordination amongst a diverse array of agencies at the binational, federal, state/provincial and local levels. Efforts to improve scientific research and information dissemination must therefore be designed to encourage this coordination; ideally, science-through provision of an agreed-upon knowledge base-can provide a basis for interagency cooperation. The binational experience may be a useful source of models for cooperation at the local level on nonpoint source pollution.
- There is an essential role for senior governments in the science of urban nonpoint source pollution, both in requiring better coordination and planning at the local level, and in facilitating this with appropriate assistance: by conducting research, enhancing the capabilities of local governments to do their own research, and disseminating research results more widely to local staff (e.g. through training) and to the general public.
- Efforts to communicate scientific information to policymakers and other audiences should be informed by an understanding of the political and institutional contexts in which that information is applied, including the political and economic obstacles to effective environmental protection. These communication efforts should especially ensure that scientific information is available to all members of a community.
- The assumptions that guide the application of scientific information to political and managerial decision-making-for example, regarding the appropriateness of the precautionary principle-must themselves be openly examined as an element of the decision-making process.
- More research on the benefits, economic or otherwise, of nonpoint source pollution control would be beneficial, to contribute to political support for control initiatives.
- To extend our understanding of the issues raised by this pilot study, and to further the objectives of the IAGLR/Joyce Foundation project on science and policy, IAGLR should consider partnerships with local agencies responsible for nonpoint source pollution. These partnerships-perhaps focused on two or three specific sites within the Great Lakes basin-would explore in more detail the factors that affect adoption of sustainable urban development patterns, and IAGLR's potential contribution to improving the effectiveness of science in the urban development process.