Analysis of the Process of Authorizing Water Resources Projects

CED-78-41: Published: Jan 30, 1978. Publicly Released: Jan 30, 1978.

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Congress has generally authorized studies of water resources problems identified by the public. As a result of these studies, Congress generally authorizes projects by two means: individually or as part of a general plan for the comprehensive development of a large geographic area or river basin. Authorizing studies and projects individually provides certain advantages over authorizing general water resources plans. Less time and effort go into the individual preliminary and feasibility studies because a smaller area is involved, and individual projects are generally more responsive to local needs. The major disadvantage of authorizing individual studies and projects is that decisionmakers are limited to considering the project's effects on a small geographic area. The major advantage of general plans is that decisionmakers can consider and respond to overall water resources needs of a larger area. General plans involving multiprojects generally take longer to prepare, and construction is usually stretched over a longer period of time. When fully implemented, the Water Resources Council's Water Assessment and Appraisal Program could aid in improving the present authorization practices by providing a means to identify and set priorities on national needs for water resources. Until such priorities can be set on a national basis, decisionmakers in the authorization process should strive to compare and set priorities for projects on as wide a geographic basis as possible.

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