Oct 24, 2002

Washington News

The federal government's top environmental official is
urging that a national summit meeting be held early next year on the best ways
to meet water infrastructure needs her agency now estimates could exceed a
half-trillion dollars.

Administrator Christie Whitman of the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA) said such a meeting would bring together a broad range
of experts and other interested parties committed to meeting infrastructure

In a related move, EPA issued the Clean Water and Drinking
Water Infrastructure Gap Analysis of estimated funding needs for all supply,
treatment and distribution systems. Without revenue growth, the gap between income
and costs for capital and operation/maintenance spending could reach $271
billion for clean water and $263 billion for drinking water over the 20 years
ending in 2019. However, assuming annual revenue growth of 3 percent brings the
gap down to $31 billion for clean water and $45 billion for drinking water.

The report said it was important to recognize that the
estimated funding gap would occur only if capital and O&M spending do not
increase from present levels. It noted that other measures to reduce the gap
could include asset management to reduce capital and O&M costs and
"rate structures that better reflect the cost of service."

EPA said the analysis provides "an indication of the
funding gap that will result if we ignore the challenges posed by an aging
infrastructure network, a significant portion of which is beginning to reach
the end of its useful design life."

Percentage of Impaired Waters Up Slightly

EPA's latest national summary of water quality shows the
percentage of impaired waters "increased somewhat" over the previous
biennial report but said the difference is more likely the result of changes in
assessment techniques rather than in actual water-quality.

The findings of the latest National Water Quality Inventory,
covering conditions in 2000, were based on state assessments of 19 percent of
the nation's 3.7 million river and stream miles; 43 percent of its 40.6 million
acres of lakes, ponds and reservoirs; and 36 percent of the 87,300 square miles
of estuaries. Of the resources assessed, the agency said 39 percent of the
river and stream miles, 45 percent of the lake acres and 51 percent of estuary
square miles in the nation were found to be impaired for one or more uses.

EPA said the assessment changes that indicated an increase
in impaired waters included many states' use of higher quality data and the
discarding of previously used, lower-quality data.

However, G. Tracy Mehan, EPA assistant administrator of
water, said that this report points out the need for more effective controls to
address the nation's water quality problems, especially those originating from
diffuse, non-permitted sources such as runoff from agricultural and urban

U.S. Government Approves Cadiz Project

A unique plan under which a private company would help Southern
California meet its long-term water supply needs has won critical approval from
the U. S. Department of the Interior.

Under the proposed arrangement, water from the Colorado
River would be stored in an existing groundwater basin underlying parts of the
Cadiz and Fenner Valleys in the Mojave Desert in San Bernardino County. The
stored and indigenous groundwater would be drawn down as needed during periods
in which normal supplies were inadequate.

The principal partners in the plan are the Metropolitan
Water District of Southern California and Cadiz, Inc., of Santa Monica, Calif.,
which owns the storage site.

The district's governing body was scheduled to vote in
November on the final go-ahead on the project.

The agency's goal is to establish a reserve of up to 1
million acre feet and withdraw up to 150,000 acre feet when needed in dry

Federal approval was needed because pipelines would cross
public lands.

The proposal has not had unanimous support. Environmental
groups and some California officials including Sen. Diane Feinstein (D) are
opposing it saying that the project may have a potential impact on the existing

Screening Tool Available

The PBT Profiler, an on-line program that screens for
potential, persistent bioaccumulative and toxic (PBTs) chemicals is available
online from EPA.

The screening tool was developed jointly by EPA, the
American Chemistry Council, the Chlorine Chemistry Council and the Synthetic
Organic Chemical Manufacturers Association.

EPA says the new program allows companies to screen for PBT
chemicals faster than they could with traditional methods, to select safer
alternatives to PBTs and to incorporate pollution prevents into the chemical
development process.

Additonal information is available at www.epa.gov/oppt/pbtprofiler.


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USGS Offers Real Time Water Flow Data

Same-day water flow data on a local or nationwide basis can
now be accessed on the new U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) Water Watch site.

Visitors to the site find color-coded national maps from
which they can go to their respective states and then to the nearest streams.
The USGS said the site is helpful for local water managers to be able to adjust
their supply sources and to operate dams and reservoirs to the greatest

The site is water.usgs.gov/waterwatch.

EPA Developing Guide on Nonpoint Programs

EPA is seeking public comments on its draft technical
guidance and reference document, National Management Measures to Control
Nonpoint Source Pollution from Urban Areas. The deadline for the comment is
Dec. 9.

The agency said the guide is intended for use by state,
local and tribal managers in the implementation of nonpoint source pollution management
programs. It will include information on the best available, economically
achievable means of reducing pollution of surface and ground water from urban
areas, EPA said.

The draft version of the guide is available online at

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