Water Project Construction Backlog:

A Serious Problem With No Easy Solution

RCED-83-49: Published: Jan 26, 1983. Publicly Released: Feb 24, 1983.

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In response to a congressional request, GAO provided information on the impact of escalating costs on the construction backlog of water projects, the reasons for the cost increases, and the options for dealing with the backlog.

The water project construction backlog consists of 934 authorized projects which need about $60 billion to complete construction. In recent years, construction backlog costs have grown because construction funding has not been sufficient to offset inflation and other project cost increases. Unless future funding can sufficiently cover inflation and other cost increases, some Army Corps of Engineers and Bureau of Reclamation water projects receiving fiscal year 1982 construction funding will probably not be completed. New construction starts and increasing operation and maintenance costs add to the competition for available water resource funds. The impact of legislation designed to reduce the backlog has been small; most of the projects which have been deauthorized were inactive for some time. Other alternatives to reduce the construction backlog include providing additional funding and establishing a priority ranking system so that, if sufficient funds are not available for all projects, only the highest priority ones would be funded for construction. Additional funding for the construction programs could be provided either by increasing the annual water construction appropriation or having non-Federal entities share more costs. However, increased funding is questionable. Setting priorities for water construction projects will not be an easy task since many factors will need to be considered and evaluated.

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