Ways To Resolve Critical Water Resources Issues Facing the Nation

CED-79-87: Published: Apr 27, 1979. Publicly Released: May 8, 1979.

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Unresolved issues in the control of water resources are discussed, and some alternative solutions are suggested. The Corps of Engineers takes about 26 years from initial authorization to the start of construction for flood control projects. To improve this situation, GAO identified alternatives that would hasten construction but would lessen congressional controls, thereby giving more authority and responsibility to the Corps. The procedures for calculating benefit/cost ratios used in evaluating water resources projects are not sufficiently objective and impartial. To make the benefit/cost analysis more reliable, the following alternatives are suggested: (1) establishing an independent review function in either the Water Resources Council or the Office of Management and Budget; (2) establishing a new independent review board in either the executive or legislative branches; or (3) creating a new independent agency for benefit/cost analysis. Problems occur in many areas because ground water is used from an aquifer faster than the water in the aquifer is being replenished. Many dam owners lack the money, willingness, or understanding to take remedial action recommended by the Corps. Reclamation law objectives of breaking up large private landholdings, spreading the benefits of the subsidized irrigation program to the maximum number of people, and promoting the family-size farm are not being achieved. Questions exist concerning the practicality of limiting the use of water from Bureau projects to a landowner's 160 acres of irrigable land. It has been suggested that State and local control over water resources projects should be increased after national water policy and priorities are established.

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