Congressional Action Needed To Provide a Better Focus on Water-Related Research

CED-81-87: Published: Jun 5, 1981. Publicly Released: Jun 5, 1981.

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The Nation faces serious water problems in the West and certain other areas of the country. Developing and implementing technologies that conserve or augment water supplies could help alleviate these problems. These efforts and other water-related research and development activities are fragmented among 28 Federal organizations that plan to spend about $380 million during fiscal year 1981.

A comparative assessment of conservation and augmentation technologies is needed to establish water research priorities and allocate the research funds. GAO found considerable disagreement as to which technologies have the most potential for solving water supply and quality problems. There appears to be no correlation between the potential of some technologies and their relative level of Federal funding. Before assessing the various technologies, regional and local water problems and potential alternative solutions should be identified. The comparative assessment should also identify and evaluate the impact of technical, environmental, legal, and social obstacles on each technology's potential. Formal plans should be developed based on the results of the comparative assessment. GAO found that some agencies had not prepared formal plans, others had prepared plans that lacked many elements, plans did not provide for periodic independent evaluations, and many plans lacked specific, measurable objectives and estimated completion dates. GAO examined the advantages and disadvantages of various organizations having the responsibility for coordinating water research.

Matters for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should amend section 406 of the Water Research and Development Act to require the Federal organization Congress chooses to coordinate research to: (1) establish priorities for water conservation and augmentation technologies based upon the results of overall comparative assessments of these technologies; (2) provide leadership and guidance to other agencies in developing formal multi-agency and single-agency plans for the technologies with specific objectives, milestones, technology transfer goals, and provisions for independent, periodic evaluations; (3) make recommendations annually to Congress concerning the adequacy of the funding levels of water research, development, and technology transfer activities; (4) consider the data developed pursuant to section 103 of the act in coordinating research and establishing research priorities.

  2. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: When we determine what steps the Congress has taken, we will provide updated information.

    Matter: Congress should amend section 406 of the Water Research and Development Act of 1978 to require the Water Resources Council (WRC) to coordinate water-related research provided Congress believes it desirable to have an independent, full-time WRC chairperson and resolves the issue of continued existence of WRC. Otherwise, Congress should amend section 406 to establish a water resources research committee reporting directly to the Office of Science and Technology Policy. This committee should be composed of representatives from the major Federal organizations involved in water resources research.

 

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