Drinking Water:

Combination of Strategies Needed to Bring Program Costs in Line With Resources

T-RCED-94-152: Published: Mar 14, 1994. Publicly Released: Mar 14, 1994.

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GAO discussed the difficulties small communities face in complying with the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) drinking water program. GAO noted that: (1) state efforts to improve small community water systems' compliance with safe drinking water standards include developing alternative treatment strategies, determining the cost-effectiveness of treatment alternatives, and testing ways to assist or restructure small community water systems; (2) barriers that prevent states from using alternative treatment strategies include the high cost and complexity of some treatment technologies, EPA technological grant approval process, and the lack of cost and performance data necessary to evaluate alternative technologies and water system viability; (3) EPA efforts to address the barriers include field testing treatment alternatives, creating a centralized database to track alternative technology information, and developing standard protocols to facilitate its grant approval process; (4) Congress needs to allocate the resources necessary to allow small communities to offset spiraling costs and meet new regulatory requirements; and (5) EPA needs to revise its drinking water program priorities and emphasize viability program development and implementation, work with Congress to ensure that its proposed requirements are accompanied by realistic funding strategies, eliminate disincentives for consolidating water systems, work with Congress to establish minimum funding levels for its drinking water program, and emphasize near-term preventive programs that can improve compliance and prevent long-term cleanup costs.

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