The limitations of regulatory science in the effective control of diffuse pollution

Alison D. Reeves, Elizabeth A. Kirk, Kirsty L. Blackstock

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    4 Citations (Scopus)


    This paper focuses on the application of regulatory science by an institution charged with implementing a holistic approach to environmental regulation within strict time limits. In particular, it centres on the question of whether effective control of diffuse pollution can be achieved in the desired timeframe imposed by the Water Framework Directive (WFD). It examines implementation of the WFD by one environmental regulatory agency, the Scottish Environment Protection Agency (SEPA). The WFD requires the scientific mind-set that operates within the context of environmental regulation to alter quickly as it, the WFD, requires greater collaboration between laboratory-based science and other disciplines (e.g., economics and sociology) in both approach and the interpretation of findings. It is argued that, in order to manage diffuse pollution specifically, SEPA and other bodies need to embrace the practice of sustainability science or post normal science, in order to guide and underpin their regulatory work more effectively. As the paper illustrates, however, aspects of operational environmental regulation such as, institutional structures and path dependency resulting from resource constraints, serve to frustrate this occurring. © 2007 A B Academic Publishers.
    Original languageEnglish
    Pages (from-to)123-156
    Number of pages34
    JournalLaw, Science and Policy: an International Journal
    Issue number2
    Publication statusPublished - 2007


    • Environmental protection
    • Pollution control
    • Regulatory approach
    • Sustainability


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