Water Quality Management Planning Is Not Comprehensive and May Not Be Effective for Many Years

CED-78-167: Published: Dec 11, 1978. Publicly Released: Dec 11, 1978.

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Section 208 of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 authorized a planning program, referred to as 208 planning, to be undertaken in areas with substantial water quality control problems. The program evolved from an optional one for urban regions to a mandatory one carried on by local, state, and interstate planning agencies. Statutory requirements for planning include identifying: (1) needs and methods for financing treatment works; (2) agencies necessary to construct, operate, and maintain facilities, and carry out the plan; and (3) nonpoint sources of pollution and control measures. Planning agencies had up to 2 years to address these requirements, complete initial plans, and submit them to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

The statutory 2-year period was inadequate for comprehensive planning and for developing information on pollution and water quality. Data on effects of pollutants on water quality were inadequate or unavailable. Waste-load allocations for polluters could be subject to legal action if adequate cause and effect data are not available. Other problems hindering 208 planning include: (1) lack of committed local funds to continue planning and to carry out recommendations when federal funds are exhausted; (2) disagreements among governmental units which may hamper implementing potential solutions to water quality problems; and (3) the need for public participation programs more sensitive to local needs.

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