Document Type



Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor's Name

Fernando Miralles-Wilhelm

First Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Chair

Second Advisor's Name

Mahadev G. Bhat

Second Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Third Advisor's Name

Michael C. Sukop

Third Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fourth Advisor's Name

Dean Whitman

Fourth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Fifth Advisor's Name

Francisco R. Garcia

Fifth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member

Sixth Advisor's Name

G. Melodie Naja

Sixth Advisor's Committee Title

Committee Member


Best management practices (BMP); Command-and-control approach; Least-cost abatement solution; Total phosphorus (TP) reduction; Trading ratios; Credit price; Water quality trading

Date of Defense



Lake Okeechobee is the largest lake in the southeastern United States and is a central component of the hydrology and environment of the Everglades ecosystem in South Florida. The natural state of the lake has been degraded as wetlands and natural habitats in the Lake Okeechobee watershed have been replaced with farms, urban areas, and dairy operations. Excessive phosphorus loadings from these diverse sources have been identified as the leading causes of the lake’s impairment. For more than four decades, many resources have been allocated to regional and local restoration efforts to reduce phosphorus loadings into the lake. However, phosphorus loadings have not decreased and the recovery of the lake could take more time, particularly with today’s limited local budgets.

Market-based instruments, such as water quality trading programs, have emerged over the past decades to cost-effectively achieve water quality objectives in impaired watersheds. The main objective of this dissertation was to assess the environmental and economic benefits of implementing a phosphorus trading program in Lake Okeechobee watershed, compared to a conventional command-and-control approach. A comprehensive literature overview of nationally and internationally implemented trading programs was conducted to highlight advantages and challenges of these programs towards achieving water quality goals, and to outline the essential elements of a successful program. Furthermore, a modeling framework, integrating a hydrologic-water quality model with an economic model, was developed to assess the potential cost savings that trading might offer over a command-and-control approach. The modeling framework was applied in three priority basins of the Lake Okeechobee watershed. In each case, while developing trading scenarios to achieve phosphorus load reduction targets, the trading program was less expensive than the conventional command-and-control approach.

This research provided the foundation for stakeholders to better understand whether water quality trading has the potential to work in the Lake Okeechobee watershed and to facilitate the development of a pilot program. In addition, it offered some insights on the potential economic opportunities that pollution sources would have by participating in the trading program. The modeling framework developed in this dissertation could facilitate the assessment of future water quality trading programs in other watersheds.





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