According to a Government Accountability Office (GAO) report, Congress should consider amending the Clean Water Act (CWA) to allow mandatory controls of run-off from agriculture.
Under the CWA, states generally write Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for waters that are not meeting water quality standards. A TMDL plan includes calculation of pollution discharges from both point and nonpoint sources (urban and agricultural run-off) as well as strategies for reducing those discharges. The GAO noted that the CWA addresses nonpoint source pollution largely through voluntary means and that “EPA does not have direct authority to compel landowners to take prescribed actions to reduce such pollution.”
According to the report, “EPA has worked with the states to develop more than 50,000 TMDLs over the past two decades and these have proven useful in identifying and reducing pollutant loads in many waters impaired by pollutants from point sources. Yet progress toward the CWA's goals of restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters has stalled, largely because nonpoint source pollution has not been controlled. As our survey of state TMDL program coordinators indicates, few TMDLs have been implemented for nonpoint source pollution, and for those that have been implemented, progress has generally been incremental, in large part because of long-recognized limits to nonpoint source authority and funding… Without changes to the program's voluntary approach to implement projects in waters impaired by nonpoint source pollution, the act's goals are likely to remain unfulfilled.”
Sens. Boxer (D-Calif.) and Cardin (D-Md.) requested the GAO review. Boxer is Senate Environment and Public Works Committee chairperson; Cardin is Senate Environment Subcommittee on Water and Wildlife chairman.
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