Drinking Water:

Widening Gap Between Needs and Available Resources Threatens Vital EPA Program

RCED-92-184: Published: Jul 6, 1992. Publicly Released: Aug 8, 1992.

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Pursuant to a legislative requirement, GAO reviewed the Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) drinking water program, focusing on: (1) issues GAO has already raised concerning the program; (2) funding and related problems that have affected EPA and states' ability to address these issues; (3) the new EPA strategy to set funding priorities; and (4) the effects that new strategies may have on protecting the public from contaminated drinking water.

GAO found that: (1) an earlier GAO report found that many drinking water quality violations were undetected and unreported by water systems due to sampling errors and intentional falsification of data; (2) the report showed that EPA regulatory enforcement was neither timely nor appropriate; (3) EPA has issued or will issue new regulations that will significantly increase program responsibilities for water systems; (4) EPA is dealing with worsening state funding problems by setting program priorities, including minimum state functions, EPA priorities, and state oversight priorities; and (5) EPA faces problems with funding and program implementation, which will make it difficult for states to meet the priorities EPA has set.

Matter for Congressional Consideration

  1. Status: Closed - Implemented

    Comments: Congress did not revise EPA's fiscal year 1993 budget request for state drinking water program oversight. In fiscal year 1994, Congress increased funding for the states by $5 million ($63.9 million in total). The fiscal year 1995 budget has not yet been approved but tentatively will increase funding levels to $70 million. In 1993, EPA estimated that the overall shortfall in state program resources exceeded $16 million.

    Matter: In light of the financial problems threatening the viability of the drinking water program, and its vital importance in protecting human health, Congress should, after consulting with EPA and other concerned parties, consider revising EPA's proposed fiscal year 1993 budget request to provide the minimum funding levels needed to maintain the integrity of the program.


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