Year 2000 Computing Crisis:

Status of the Water Industry

AIMD-99-151: Published: Apr 21, 1999. Publicly Released: Apr 28, 1999.

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Joel C. Willemssen
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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO identified the water utility sector's vulnerability to year 2000 problems, focusing on: (1) the reported status of year 2000 readiness; and (2) activities being undertaken to address this issue.

GAO noted that: (1) water and wastewater treatment facilities often use automated control systems and equipment to obtain, treat, and distribute drinking water, and to collect, treat, and release wastewater; (2) these control systems and equipment are subject to year 2000 failures; (3) however, little is known about the year 2000 status of the nation's water and wastewater facilities; (4) while the President's Year 2000 Conversion Council's water sector working group has undertaken an awareness campaign and is urging national water sector associates to continue to survey their memberships to determine their year 2000 readiness, to date these associations' surveys have had low response rates; (5) further, Environmental Protection Agency officials stated that the agency lacks the rules and regulations necessary to require water and wastewater facilities to report on their year 2000 status, and that developing such rules and regulations would be a time-consuming process; (6) GAO surveyed state regulators to identify their efforts to monitor the year 2000 status of the water and wastewater facilities they regulate, and found a wide range of responses; (7) a few states were proactively collecting year 2000 compliance data from the facilities they regulate, while a much larger group of states was disseminating year 2000 information, and another group was not actively using either approach; (8) further, only a handful of state regulators believed that under the current regulatory framework, they were responsible for ensuring facilities' year 2000 compliance, or overseeing facilities' business continuity and contingency plans; and (9) as a result, insufficient information is available to assess and manage year 2000 efforts in the water sector, and little additional information is expected under the current regulatory framework.

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