River Basin Commissions Have Been Helpful, but Changes Are Needed

CED-81-69: Published: May 28, 1981. Publicly Released: May 28, 1981.

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River basin planning should match the needs of water users with the amount of water available irrespective of State boundaries or Federal agency responsibilities. A review was made to determine how successful river basin commissions have been in meeting their legislative objectives of planning and coordinating water resource development.

The river basin commissions, as they are now operating, do not accomplish optimum planning. While the commissions have provided a forum for Federal and State members to exchange views and have assisted States in various water studies, they have fallen short of meeting some of their legislative objectives. Legislative changes are needed to ensure continued State participation and regional water resources planning input into Federal agencies' budget submissions. Commissions have not become the principal coordinators of water resource projects as intended, and Federal and State members who make up the six river basin commissions do not use their collective authority to carry out commission objectives. Commissions agree that authority is lacking, and Federal and State water plans and programs continue to be prepared independently of commission influence. GAO believes that river basin commissions have the opportunity to be more successful in planning and coordinating water development. However, changes are needed to: (1) provide broad water resource planning input and ensure continued State participation; and (2) encourage more participation in resolving regional and national water resource problems.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should amend title III of the Water Resources Planning Act to require State membership in river basin commissions or other regional planning arrangements prior to authorization of title III funds.

  2. Status: Closed

    Comments: Please call 202/512-6100 for additional information.

    Matter: Congress should amend title II of the Water Resources Planning Act to require information regarding priorities established by river basin commissions or other regional planning arrangements be included in the appropriate Federal agencies' annual budget submissions to Congress. Such information should (1) include a comparison of the relative priority of each project with all other water projects within the commission's or other regional arrangement's jurisdiction; and (2) be required before major Federal water projects are authorized.

 

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