Endangered Species:

Limited Effect of Consultation Requirements on Western Water Projects

RCED-87-78: Published: Mar 26, 1987. Publicly Released: Apr 9, 1987.

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Pursuant to a congressional request, GAO reviewed the effect of the Endangered Species Act on the development of water rights in western states.

GAO found that: (1) some competitors for scarce water claimed that reserving water for endangered species has hampered their ability to develop water resources for irrigation, municipal water supplies, and industrial development; (2) the Department of the Interior required federal agencies to consult on water conservation projects before authorizing development actions, but the requirement had little or no effect on western water development; (3) other concurrent problems, such as lack of funding, often had more serious effects on western water development than consultation requirements; (4) Interior developed several approaches to allow continued development of water supplies in river basins while protecting endangered species; and (5) although some consultations exceeded the prescribed 90-day time limit, they did not lengthen the time needed to complete the projects, alter project scopes, or substantially increase project costs.

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