WHY HOUSEHOLDS IN THE UNITED STATES DO NOT MAINTAIN THEIR SEPTIC SYSTEMS AND WHY STATE-LED REGULATIONS ARE NECESSARY: EXPLANATIONS FROM PUBLIC GOODS THEORY
Free (open access)
Volume 4 (2009), Issue 2
143 - 157
Septic systems are found on many residential lots. Unfortunately, the lack of maintenance by households results in the failure of these systems. In turn, this has considerable negative environmental, public health, and fiscal consequences. Governments have responded with a plethora of education programs aimed at making households aware of their systems and of the need to maintain them. Nonetheless, failure rates remain high. This article uses public goods theory to show that households do not maintain their septic systems because it is not in their rational self-interest to do so. Educating households is an insufficient response. Similarly, it is not in the rational self-interest of local governments to establish effective regulations. State-established regulations, combined with incentives and sanctions to ensure implementation by local governments, appear to offer more environmentally and fiscally sustainable solutions to the problem.
common pool resources, lakes, land use, open access resources, pollution, prisoner’s dilemma,