Federal and State Efforts To Protect Ground Water

RCED-84-80: Published: Feb 21, 1984. Publicly Released: Mar 22, 1984.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed federal and state efforts to protect the nation's ground water supplies.

About 50 percent of the nation's population depends on ground water for its drinking water supply. Ground water use has increased greatly in recent years and concern has grown regarding ground water contamination problems. GAO found that there is no comprehensive national database on the extent of ground water contamination and that neither federal legislation nor federal funds are directed toward comprehensive ground water protection. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has not yet established drinking water standards for many organic chemicals contaminating ground water. Ground water protection is primarily viewed as a state responsibility, which accounts for differences in state standards and activities. The states which GAO studied favor a federal role in formulating, administering, and supporting a national ground water protection program. All cited a need for technical assistance and several states requested federal funding to further develop and implement their programs. Presently, EPA is working on a ground water protection strategy to strengthen the states' programs, address ground water problems, and establish the role of EPA. Congress has proposed establishing a national ground water commission.

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