USEPA assistant administrator calls on partners to energize water quality monitoring programs

G. Tracy Mehan III, Assistant Administrator for Water at the U.S. EPA, called on partners at the federal, state and local level to join with him to energize the nation's water quality monitoring programs.

June 25, 2003 -- G. Tracy Mehan III, Assistant Administrator for Water at the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), called on partners at the federal, state and local level to join with him to energize the nation's water quality monitoring programs.

Mehan noted that the United States has made real progress in reducing pollution in our streams, rivers, lakes, wetlands, estuaries, and coasts. However, when asked to characterize the condition of waters and watersheds in the United States, Mehan cited the just-released Draft Report on the Environment 2003, which found that "At this time, there is not sufficient information to provide a national answer to this question with confidence and scientific credibility."

Said Mehan, "we risk flying blind if we aren't able to get dramatic improvements in water quality monitoring and data to support wise management decisions."

The Draft Report on the Environment 2003 follows in the footsteps of several recent reports by the General Accounting Office, the National Research Council, the National Academy of Public Administration, and the H. John Heinz III Center for Science, Economics and the Environment.

Together, these reports point to the need to use a combination of tools (such as probability-based assessments, predictive models, targeted monitoring and remote sensing) to better characterize the quality of the nation's waters at multiple scales. Said Mehan, "These tools would help states target their actions to make the most of each dollar they spend on clean water. And for the first time, we would also be able to produce a scientifically-defensible overall picture of the quality of the nation's waters."

Addressing the challenge of improving water monitoring nationwide is a task far greater than EPA can undertake alone. "Success will require a sustained and coordinated commitment from many partners," said Mehan, "and our work together is just beginning." Investment in improved monitoring, he noted, will yield significant social cost savings by pointing to the most cost-effective steps to improve water quality at the national, state and local levels.


More in Environmental