The use of environmental policy instruments as an effective approach for wastewater management has been of increasing debate. The relevant literature is mainly directed to the role of these instruments for the mitigation of air emissions, although occasionally policy implications for wastewater are noted. Empirical evidence regarding the performance of environmental instruments in wastewater management is scarce. There is thus often a discrepancy between the design and application stages of an instrument by a failure to attain the pursued targets in wastewater policy. This paper investigates the appropriateness of major applied environmental instruments and of combinatory options for wastewater pollution control. The research is based on an international survey of experienced experts and decision-makers in developed urban wastewater systems. The results suggest a strong preference for taxes and, to a lesser extent, for command-and-control approaches. The country origin of the respondents appears to be a significant factor for the preference of particular instruments. Copyright © 2012 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd and ERP Environment.