U.S. Water News Online
WASHINGTON -- In an effort to ensure that all Americans have the information they need about the health and quality of their water resources, President Clinton has announced an environmental initiative that includes major additional funding -- $45 million over four years -- for the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) to extend water quality testing to 75 key cities across the country.
"Every American should have the right to know about the quality of the water in their community," Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt said. "Right now, fewer than half of the nation's rivers, lakes, streams, and beaches are being monitored adequately to provide that information. President Clinton's plan would bring accurate water quality information to tens of millions more Americans."
The USGS National Water Quality Assessment Program (NAWQA) is currently focused on 35 of the most important river basins and groundwater systems, looking at the status and trends in the quality of the nation's groundwater and rivers. Each NAWQA study is conducted in cooperation with a local liaison committee to ensure that community interests and concerns are addressed and incorporated into the assessment
If funding is approved by Congress, the new initiative would expand existing USGS programs, making data collected on the major rivers, drinking water wells, and water-supply watersheds available to the public via the Internet and the World Wide Web.
The USGS would work closely with the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and local utility companies to provide the public with overviews and updates on the quality of water in a particular area, as called for in the Safe Drinking Water Act. This information can be used by communities and states to set priorities for waste treatment, hazardous waste cleanup, and other problems.
Experts expect the USGS NAWQA program to help states and communities address critical water quality problems, and at the same time save money. "The NAWQA program has already provided us with critically needed information to help in the management of the nation's vital water resources," said USGS Director Gordon Eaton. "In Washington state, for example, the USGS worked with the Washington State Department of Health to assess the vulnerability of public water supply wells to pesticide contamination.
The results of the NAWQA study, which provided information on pesticide contamination at extremely low levels of detection, enabled the state health department to obtain waivers for quarterly monitoring that are required under the Safe Drinking Water Act. By using the USGS information to assure the U.S. EPA that the water in the wells was safe to drink, Washington state was able to save at least $6 million in costly additional monitoring -- a savings of $70 per household."
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