NCPA - National Center for Policy Analysis

States, EPA Fail To Evaluate Water Quality

July 13, 2000

How clean are the nation's lakes, rivers and streams? In passing the Clean Water Act in 1972, Congress directed each state to gather water quality data. But critics say that mandate has been virtually ignored. So no one knows for sure the status of our water.

  • Celebrating the 25th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency claimed, "Today' two-thirds of the nation's surveyed waters are safe for fishing and swimming."
  • But in nearly the same breath, the agency warned that "57 percent of our waters are unacceptably polluted."
  • Critics say the EPA has done nothing to develop or even encourage meaningful monitoring -- and even admits that only 19 percent of rivers and streams have even been evaluated.
  • In fact, the agency is said to have sabotaged attempts by the U.S. Geological Survey to create a national water quality database.

Even when streams are physically monitored, critics charge, sampling is likely to be erratic, infrequent, superficial and otherwise so limited as to be worthless for setting policy and making regulatory decisions.

Source: Alex Avery and Richard Halpern (both of the Hudson Institute), "Regulators Without Clues," Washington Times, July 13, 2000.


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