Water Pollution:

Greater EPA Leadership Needed to Reduce Nonpoint Source Pollution

RCED-91-10: Published: Oct 15, 1990. Publicly Released: Nov 15, 1990.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed whether federal programs and activities inhibited state and local efforts to control non-point-source water pollution, focusing on: (1) federal programs that may have inhibited state and local non-point-source control efforts; and (2) actions the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) could take to better focus federal efforts on reducing non-point-source water pollution.

GAO found that: (1) Department of Agriculture and Forest Service program policies conflicted with objectives of the Clean Water Act, since many accepted practices contributed to soil erosion and water pollution; (2) information deficiencies restricted states' ability to educate landowners about pollution problems and control and determine the effectiveness of potential solutions; (3) states lacked the necessary technical information, federal guidance, and resources to control water pollution; (4) the sheer magnitude of non-point-source pollution dwarfed the resources available to deal with it; (5) although greater reliance on and enforcement of land-use provisions could help to protect water quality, political sensitivity over such regulation remained a formidable barrier; (6) preventing such potential problems as harmful resource extraction and urban runoff should help to limit water pollution; and (7) resource constraints, inappropriate funding priorities, and funding shortages will make it difficult for EPA to strengthen its efforts and take a leading role in coping with non-point-source pollution.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Despite the administration's request to cut funding by 50 percent in FY 1992, Congress restored funding for state grants to the prior year's level and allocated an additional 10 staff years to EPA nonpoint control activities.

    Matter: In light of the importance of non-point-source pollution as a primary cause of the nation's remaining water quality problems and the overwhelming emphasis of EPA resources devoted to point-source programs, Congress may wish to consider allocating EPA water quality funding during the fiscal year (FY) 1992 budget process to provide greater emphasis on controlling non-point-source pollution.

Recommendations for Executive Action

  1. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Under the EPA FY 1992 budget request, no additional staff resources were made available to implement the EPA non-point-source agenda. However, Congress directed EPA to reallocate 10 staff years from other water quality programs to nonpoint control activities in its FY 1992 appropriation. Congress also restored other funds that EPA had proposed to be cut from the FY 1992 budget.

    Recommendation: To address the nation's water pollution problem in a manner that better reflects the risks posed by non-point-source pollution, the Administrator, EPA, should identify appropriate funding levels that will allow the agency to pursue key objectives of an effective non-point-source agenda that have heretofore made little progress under existing funding constraints. Specifically, the Administrator should set funding levels that will allow EPA to accelerate its efforts to develop monitoring techniques to help states determine the extent of their non-point-source pollution problems and the effectiveness of corrective actions.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  2. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Under the EPA FY 1992 budget request, no additional staff resources were made available to implement the EPA non-point-source agenda. However, Congress directed EPA to reallocate 10 staff years from other water quality programs to nonpoint control activities in its FY 1992 appropriation. Congress also restored other funds that EPA had proposed to be cut from the FY 1992 budget.

    Recommendation: To address the nation's water pollution problem in a manner that better reflects the risks posed by non-point-source pollution, the Administrator, EPA, should identify appropriate funding levels that will allow the agency to pursue key objectives of an effective non-point-source agenda that have heretofore made little progress under existing funding constraints. Specifically, the Administrator should set funding levels that will allow EPA to accelerate its efforts to develop non-point-source pollution criteria so the states can develop and implement non-point-source water quality standards.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  3. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Under the EPA FY 1992 budget request, no additional staff resources were made available to implement the EPA non-point-source agenda. However, Congress directed EPA to reallocate 10 staff years from other water quality programs to nonpoint control activities in its FY 1992 appropriation. Congress also restored other funds that EPA had proposed to be cut from the FY 1992 budget.

    Recommendation: To address the nation's water pollution problem in a manner that better reflects the risks posed by non-point-source pollution, the Administrator, EPA, should identify appropriate funding levels that will allow the agency to pursue key objectives of an effective non-point-source agenda that have heretofore made little progress under existing funding constraints. Specifically, the Administrator should set funding levels that will allow EPA to accelerate its efforts to resolve problems arising out of conflicts between the policies of federal agencies and water quality goals.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

  4. Status: Closed - Not Implemented

    Comments: Under the EPA FY 1992 budget request, no additional staff resources were made available to implement the EPA non-point-source agenda. However, Congress directed EPA to reallocate 10 staff years from other water quality programs to nonpoint control activities in its FY 1992 appropriation. Congress also restored other funds that EPA had proposed to be cut from the FY 1992 budget.

    Recommendation: To address the nation's water pollution problem in a manner that better reflects the risks posed by non-point-source pollution, the Administrator, EPA, should identify appropriate funding levels that will allow the agency to pursue key objectives of an effective non-point-source agenda that have heretofore made little progress under existing funding constraints. Specifically, the Administrator should set funding levels that will allow EPA to accelerate its efforts to develop its program to educate the public about the health and environmental impacts of non-point-source pollution.

    Agency Affected: Environmental Protection Agency

 

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