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    Subject Term: "Safe drinking water"

    5 publications with a total of 12 open recommendations including 2 priority recommendations
    Director: Alfredo Gómez
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    3 open recommendations
    Recommendation: The Assistant Administrator for Water of EPA's Office of Water should require states to report available information about lead pipes to EPA's Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS)/Fed (or a future redesign such as SDWIS Prime) database, in its upcoming revision of the LCR. (Recommendation 1)

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what action the agency has taken, we will update.
    Recommendation: The Assistant Administrator for Water of EPA's Office of Water should require states to report all 90th percentile sample results for small water systems to EPA's SDWIS/Fed (or a future redesign such as SDWIS Prime) database, in its upcoming revision of the LCR. (Recommendation 2)

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what action the agency has taken, we will update.
    Recommendation: The Assistant Administrator for Water of EPA's Office of Water and the Assistant Administrator of EPA's Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance should develop a statistical analysis that incorporates multiple factors--including those currently in SDWIS/Fed and others such as the presence of lead pipes and the use of corrosion control--to identify water systems that might pose a higher likelihood for violating the LCR once complete violations data are obtained, such as through SDWIS Prime. (Recommendation 3)

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: When we confirm what action the agency has taken, we will update.
    Director: J. Alfredo Gómez
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve EPA's review and oversight of the SRF program, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Water to update the financial indicators guidance to include one or more of EPA's financial measures for identifying the growth of states' SRF funds.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of April 2017, EPA is finalizing changes to its financial indicators to help identify the growth of states' SRF funds, according to EPA officials. EPA officials told us it had established a joint EPA/state workgroup that proposed draft financial indicators for the State Revolving Funds (SRF). These draft indicators are intended to address financial sustainability and the extent to which funds are being used efficiently. EPA plans to issue a memorandum to finalize these updated indicators in the summer of 2017. GAO will review EPA's memorandum when it is issued to determine if the recommendation can be closed.
    Recommendation: To improve EPA's review and oversight of the SRF program, the Administrator of EPA should direct the Office of Water to use information on SRF funds' past performance to develop projections of SRF programs by forecasting future lending capacity during regional office reviews of states' SRF programs using factors such as future interest earnings and inflation rates.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of April 2017, EPA is finalizing its tools and guidance to regional offices to forecast states' future lending capacity, according to EPA officials. EPA officials told us that it had enhanced its State Revolving Fund (SRF) Financial Planning Model to align future loan projections with target cash balances. EPA's Office of Water will work with EPA regional offices to use the updated SRF Financial Planning Model for SRF forecasts that will support annual regional reviews of state SRF programs. EPA will update its guidance to EPA regional offices to use these forecasts in their reviews of the state SRF programs beginning in 2017 or early 2018. GAO will review EPA's guidance when it is finalized to determine if this recommendation can be closed.
    Director: Gomez, Jose A
    Phone: (202) 512-3841

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To take advantage of opportunities to collect UCMR data on additional unregulated contaminants, Congress should consider amending SDWA to give EPA the flexibility to select more than 30 contaminants for monitoring under the UCMR program if high-priority contaminants, such as those on the Contaminant Candidate List (CCL) or contaminants of emerging concern, can be included at minimal cost, with minimal additional burden on public water systems, and while using analytical methods that EPA is already employing.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, Congress has not taken action to address this matter; we will continue to monitor actions and provide updated information when it becomes available.
    Recommendation: To optimize the ability of the UCMR data to support regulatory determinations, Congress should consider adjusting the statutory time frames for the UCMR and regulatory determinations cycles so that EPA can use the UCMR data to support regulatory determinations in the same cycle.

    Agency: Congress
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of December 2016, Congress has not taken action to address this matter; we will continue to monitor actions and provide updated information when it becomes available.
    Director: Trimble, David C
    Phone: (202)512-9338

    3 open recommendations
    including 1 priority recommendation
    Recommendation: To improve EPA's ability to oversee the states' implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act and provide Congress and the public with more complete and accurate information on compliance, the Administrator of EPA should resume data verification audits to routinely evaluate the quality of selected drinking water data on health-based and monitoring violations that the states provide to EPA. These audits should also evaluate the quality of data on the enforcement actions that states and other primacy agencies have taken to correct violations.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open
    Priority recommendation

    Comments: As of May 2017, EPA reported that it had not resumed its data verification audits due to budgetary constraints, but was continuing on-site file reviews to support efficient and effective state programs. EPA completed 5 file reviews in 2015, 7 in 2016, and was planning to complete 10 in 2017. According to EPA, budgetary constraints may affect its ability to reach this goal. According to the agency, EPA continues to focus on developing its Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) Prime database, which it claims will reduce state burden, support effective management and prioritization of resources, and will enhance data quality and support the possibility of building an electronic data verification protocol. EPA said it plans to have the system operational in 2018. In addition, EPA said that it continues to provide training sessions as well as identify best practices that file reviewers can use to enhance file review implementation. For 2017-2018, EPA plans to continue quarterly national training events. A July 2017 report by EPA's Office of the Inspector General concluded that limitations to EPA's oversight tools impede the agency's ability to conduct consistent oversight of the national drinking water program and reduce the reliability of its monitoring and reporting data. The Inspector General did not make any recommendations because it concluded the agency is taking steps to address the shortcomings. For example, according to the Inspector General's report, EPA released the Compliance Monitoring Data Portal in September 2016. EPA water officials said the portal will enable public water systems and laboratories to report drinking water data electronically to primacy agencies. Utah became the first state to use the portal in March 2017 and EPA staff anticipate that five additional states will begin using the portal by the end of 2017. EPA anticipates this system will lead to fewer reporting errors, improved data quality, and reduced time needed to report state data to EPA.
    Recommendation: To improve EPA's ability to oversee the states' implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act and provide Congress and the public with more complete and accurate information on compliance, the Administrator of EPA should work with the states to establish a goal, or goals, for the completeness and accuracy of data on monitoring violations. In setting these goals, EPA may want to consider whether certain types of monitoring violations merit specific targets. For example, the agency may decide that a goal for the states to completely and accurately report when required monitoring was not done should differ from a goal for reporting when monitoring was done but not reported on time.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, EPA has not worked with states to establish a national goal for the quality of monitoring violations. EPA stated that, without the ability to conduct on-site data verifications using a statistically-based sample size, it is unable to derive a goal that would capture both completeness of state reporting to EPA and whether the states correctly assigned a violation for missed monitoring. EPA said that it intends to work with states to evaluate the establishment of a monitoring data quality goal once the new Safe Drinking Water Information System (SDWIS) NextGen data system has been developed and electronic data verification functions are incorporated into the system. In April 2015, EPA indicated that the agency intends to separate monitoring violations from reporting violations in the new SDWIS Primacy Agency (Prime) data system. According to EPA, this will enable the primacy agencies and EPA to better understand the nature of system violations and with the violations delineated in this manner, EPA will be able to consider developing goals for monitoring and reporting violations. As of May 2017, EPA is scheduled to have SDWIS Prime available for testing in September 2017 and available for state users at the end of March 2018. EPA will consider GAO's recommendation once SDWIS Prime is fully operational and it is able to better establish such a goal.
    Recommendation: To improve EPA's ability to oversee the states' implementation of the Safe Drinking Water Act and provide Congress and the public with more complete and accurate information on compliance, the Administrator of EPA should consider whether EPA's performance measures for community water systems could be constructed to more clearly communicate the aggregate public health risk posed by these systems' noncompliance with SDWA and progress in having those systems return to compliance in a timely manner.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In August 2017, EPA told GAO that it continues to use a variety of tools and resources to identify strategies that will enhance how the agency conveys to the public information on drinking water quality and potential health risks associated with exposure to contaminants. With regard to GAO's recommendation, EPA told us it had previously collaborated with the EPA Regional managers to identify language that would enhance the communication of aggregate public health risk to consumers in regards to community water system measures. EPA developed the "person month" measure because it describes the percentage of people served by community water system that receive drinking water that meets all health-based drinking water standards, accounting for the duration of violations that occurred. EPA piloted this measure in Fiscal Year 2007 as an indicator measure. In Fiscal Year 2008, the measure was elevated to a strategic plan measure with established targets. After receiving positive response regarding this measure, in Fiscal Year 2015, the agency developed a "person month" measure for tribal community water systems. According to the agency, EPA will continue to take comments on existing and future measures during its 5 year strategic plan reviews.
    Director: Trimble, David C
    Phone: (202)512-9338

    2 open recommendations
    Recommendation: To increase EPA's consistency, transparency, and clarity in implementing the Safe Drinking Water Act in a way that better assures the public of safe drinking water, and to systematically implement the statutory requirement to consider for regulation the contaminants that present the greatest public health concern, the EPA Administrator should require that the Office of Water to develop a coordinated process for obtaining both the occurrence and health effects data that may be needed for the agency to make informed regulatory determinations on these priority contaminants.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: In May 2017, while EPA cited the January 2016 document, "EPA's Protocol for the Regulatory Determinations 3," that includes clearer, more explicit description of the occurrence data EPA uses and the health assessment sources, it does not address the recommendation's intent that EPA develop a coordinated process for obtaining both the occurrence and health effects data that may be needed for the agency to make informed regulatory determinations on priority contaminants. Since most, if not all of the sources cited are data that EPA was using at the time the report was issued, GAO is keeping this recommendation open. As GAO reported, the approach EPA currently uses does not provide the agency with all of the data it needs in a timely manner to support determinations for some priority contaminants.
    Recommendation: In light of EPA's decisions to issue health advisories in conjunction with determinations to not regulate certain contaminants that have been detected in some public water systems at levels of public health concern, the EPA Administrator should (1) determine whether the Office of Water's use of health advisories provides sufficient information on these unregulated contaminants to support timely and effective actions by states, localities, public water systems, and the public to ensure the safety of public drinking water, and (2) if not, direct the Office of Water to develop a plan to more effectively communicate such information to these entities.

    Agency: Environmental Protection Agency
    Status: Open

    Comments: As of May 2017, EPA indicated that its Drinking Water Standards and Health Advisories tables provide a summary of previously published concentrations of drinking water contaminants that are protective of public health, and that the agency periodically updates these tables to summarize health advisories and regulations published to date. Since the table was last updated in 2012, and work is underway to revise it and make the information more accessible, GAO will monitor EPA's progress before closing this recommendation.