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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

CRS Issue Statement on Water Quality Management

Claudia Copeland, Coordinator
Specialist in Resources and Environmental Policy

Mary Tiemann
Specialist in Environmental Policy

Robert Meltz
Legislative Attorney

Sandra L. Johnson
Information Research Specialist

In the early 1970s, Congress established ambitious goals for cleaning the nation's lakes, rivers, and coastal waters of pollution and for protecting the public from known and potential hazards in the nation's drinking water. These goals called for achieving water quality that is "fishable and swimmable" and eliminating the discharge of pollutants into the nation's waters by 1985, and for assuring that public water supply systems meet minimum national standards for protection of public health from harmful contaminants. Two federal laws, the Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act, provide the framework for the nation's efforts to provide safe and healthy water to its citizens. Although much progress has been made towards the goals established in these laws, long-standing problems persist, and new problems have emerged. As Congress considers water quality management issues, specific areas of interest include whether additional steps are necessary to achieve the overall goals of these acts; how to meet the costs and technological challenges of providing safe drinking water and cleaning the flow of used water from a community; and what is the appropriate federal role in guiding and paying for safe and healthy water and other activities. 

A key legislative focus is water infrastructure financing legislation, since meeting the nation's needs to build, rebuild, repair, and upgrade wastewater and drinking water treatment plants is a key element in achieving water quality objectives. In addition, Congress is likely to pursue oversight of clean water and safe drinking water issues, especially how the nation is addressing the diversity of existing water quality problems and is identifying and managing new contaminants and threats to public health and the environment. Congress also is focusing on the security of water and wastewater facilities. The House has passed legislation directing EPA to promulgate water facility security regulations that would, among other things, require high-risk facilities to assess adoption of inherently safer technologies, or methods to reduce the consequences of a terrorist attack.

Date of Report: January 14, 2010
Number of Pages: 4
Order Number: IS40406
Price: $7.95

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