Water Quality: Inconsistent State Approaches Complicate Nation's Efforts to Identify Its Most Polluted Waters

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A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes that more than 20,000 bodies of water throughout the country are too polluted to meet water quality standards. States use different approaches to identify impaired waters. This variation has led not only to inconsistencies in the listing of impaired waters but also to difficulties in identifying the total number of impaired waters nationwide and the total number of total maximum daily loads (TMDL) needed to bring such waters up to standards. Under the Clean Water Act and its regulations, EPA ... continued below

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United States. General Accounting Office. January 11, 2002.

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Description

A letter report issued by the General Accounting Office with an abstract that begins "The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) believes that more than 20,000 bodies of water throughout the country are too polluted to meet water quality standards. States use different approaches to identify impaired waters. This variation has led not only to inconsistencies in the listing of impaired waters but also to difficulties in identifying the total number of impaired waters nationwide and the total number of total maximum daily loads (TMDL) needed to bring such waters up to standards. Under the Clean Water Act and its regulations, EPA has given the states some flexibility to develop listing approaches that are tailored to their circumstances. However, some of the approaches have no appropriate scientific basis. States apply a range of quality assurance procedures to ensure the quality of data used to make impairment decisions. Although states have long used quality assurance procedures for the data they collect directly, they have become increasingly vigilant about applying such procedures to data from other sources. Because of inconsistencies in states' approaches to identifying impaired waters, the information in EPA's database of impaired waters is of questionable reliability. The number of impaired waters cannot be compared from one state to the next, and EPA cannot reliably tally the number of TMDLs that must be completed nationwide. EPA's database also distorts the size of some of the states' impaired waters when they are mapped on EPA's website."

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Government Accountability Office Reports

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) is an independent, nonpartisan agency that works for the U.S. Congress investigating how the federal government spends taxpayers' money. Its goal is to increase accountability and improve the performance of the federal government. The Government Accountability Office Reports Collection consists of over 13,000 documents on a variety of topics ranging from fiscal issues to international affairs.

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  • January 11, 2002

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  • June 11, 2014, 5:03 a.m.

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United States. General Accounting Office. Water Quality: Inconsistent State Approaches Complicate Nation's Efforts to Identify Its Most Polluted Waters, report, January 11, 2002; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc293344/: accessed December 13, 2017), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.