oversight

Drinking Water Research: Better Planning Needed to Link Needs and Resources

Published by the Government Accountability Office on 1999-10-20.

Below is a raw (and likely hideous) rendition of the original report. (PDF)

                   United States General Accounting Office

GAO                Testimony
                   Before the Subcommittee on Health and Environment,
                   Committee on Commerce, House of Representatives




For Release
on Delivery
Expected at
                   DRINKING WATER
10:00 a.m. EDT
Wednesday          RESEARCH
October 20, 1999



                   Better Planning Needed to
                   Link Needs and Resources
                   Statement of Peter F. Guerrero, Director,
                   Environmental Protection Issues,
                   Resources, Community, and Economic
                   Development Division




GAO/T-RCED-00-15
    Mr. Chairman and Members of the Subcommittee:

    We are here today to discuss our report, which is being released today, on
    the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) drinking water research
    program.1 In the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996,2 the
    Congress made significant changes to the way that EPA is required to set
    drinking water quality standards in its regulations governing public water
    systems. Among other things, the regulations must be based on the best
    available peer-reviewed science and must consider health risks, risk
    reduction, and implementation costs. The statute also authorized
    increased funding for the scientific research needed to support the
    regulations.

    Concerned about whether EPA’s drinking water research will be sufficient
    to support the agency’s forthcoming regulations, the Committee asked us
    to

•   compare EPA’s budget requests for drinking water research during fiscal
    years 1997 through 2000 with (1) the amounts authorized for such
    purposes by the Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments of 1996 and (2) the
    amounts estimated by EPA to be needed to support the regulations and
    regulatory determinations required under the amendments;
•   obtain the views of stakeholders—those involved with supplying and
    ensuring the safety of drinking water—regarding the likelihood that EPA
    will be able to complete the research necessary to support new regulations
    and regulatory decisions over the next 10 years and the potential
    consequences if the research is not completed;3 and
•   assess EPA’s drinking water research plans, including the tasks, projected
    funding, and anticipated accomplishments, to support the development of
    new regulations and regulatory decisions over the next 10 years.

    In summary, Mr. Chairman, we found the following:




    1
     Drinking Water Research: Better Planning Needed to Link Needs and Resources (GAO/RCED-99-273,
    Sept. 24, 1999).
    2
     P.L. 104-182, 110 Stat. 1613 (1996).
    3
    To obtain stakeholders’ views, we interviewed officials with the American Water Works Association,
    American Water Works Association Research Foundation, Association of Metropolitan Water
    Agencies, Association of State Drinking Water Administrators, National Association of Water
    Companies, National Drinking Water Advisory Council, and Natural Resources Defense Council.
    Wealso contacted officials associated with the National Research Council and the Science Advisory
    Board.



    Page 1                                                                        GAO/T-RCED-00-15
•   For fiscal years 1997 through 2000, EPA annually requested millions of
    dollars less than the Congress authorized for drinking water research and
    regulatory development in the 1996 amendments; however, the gap has
    narrowed recently. According to EPA officials, the agency’s annual budget
    requests reflect the level of resources that agency officials believe is
    needed to fulfill EPA’s mission and program responsibilities, within the
    planning ceilings and policy directives provided by the Office of
    Management and Budget. But there is no overall estimate of resource
    needs for drinking water with which to compare EPA’s annual budget
    requests because the agency does not generally prepare estimates of the
    total resources needed to carry out multiyear research programs.
•   Stakeholders expressed concerns about the adequacy of the research for
    the upcoming regulations on (1) arsenic and (2) microbial pathogens,
    disinfectants (used to treat drinking water), and disinfection by-products,
    particularly the adequacy of research regarding health effects and the
    analytical methods used to detect contaminants. While EPA officials
    acknowledge that some high-priority research projects will not be
    completed in time for these regulations, they believe that the available
    research will be sufficient to support the regulations with sound science.
    According to the stakeholders, the potential consequences of not having
    adequate research to support upcoming regulations could be significant.
    For example, if EPA issues regulations that are more stringent than can be
    justified by the available science, water utilities could bear unnecessarily
    high treatment costs. On the other hand, if EPA decides to set a less
    stringent standard because some scientific data are not available,
    consumers could be exposed to harmful contaminants longer than
    necessary.
•   EPA has prepared detailed research plans that identify the specific tasks it
    needs to complete in order to support upcoming regulations on arsenic
    and microbial pathogens, disinfectants, and disinfection by-products.
    However, EPA has not completed research plans for other significant
    portions of its regulatory workload, including determinations on
    contaminants that are candidates for regulation and the review and
    revision of existing drinking water standards. Moreover, while the plans it
    has prepared specify research tasks, projected accomplishments, and
    expected completion dates, EPA has not identified the resources that are
    required to implement the plans and does not have an effective system for
    tracking the progress of ongoing research in relation to the plans. As a
    result, it is difficult to ascertain whether the research has been adequately
    funded or will be available in time to support the development of new
    regulations and regulatory determinations.




    Page 2                                                       GAO/T-RCED-00-15
             On the basis of these findings, we recommended that EPA take steps to
             improve the link between research needs and resources and to better
             ensure that limited research funds within EPA and other organizations are
             most efficiently targeted. We also recommended that EPA improve the
             tracking of ongoing research in relation to existing research plans and
             communicate the agency’s progress so that the Office of Research and
             Development’s key customers can obtain timely and accurate reports on
             the status, timing, and funding of individual research projects.



             EPA’s responsibility for conducting drinking water research and developing
Background   the applicable regulations is split between its Office of Research and
             Development and Office of Water. The Office of Research and
             Development’s five laboratories and centers are responsible for
             conducting research on health effects, exposure, treatment technologies,
             and analytical methods. In addition, its National Center for Environmental
             Assessment develops risk assessments for some contaminants.4 Within the
             Office of Water, the Office of Science and Technology also does some risk
             assessments, and the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water collects
             data on the occurrence of contaminants in drinking water; prepares the
             economic assessments, including cost-benefit analyses, and makes the risk
             management decisions necessary to support the regulatory decisions; and
             writes the regulations.

             Among other things, the 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act
             required EPA to finish developing most of the regulations that were in
             process at the time of the act’s reauthorization, such as standards for
             arsenic; microbial pathogens, such as cryptosporidium; disinfection
             by-products; and radon. The amendments also created a new process for
             identifying contaminants that may warrant regulation on the basis of their
             adverse health effects, their frequency of occurrence in public water
             systems, and the projected risk reduction to be achieved by regulating
             them. EPA was required to publish, by February 1998, a list of high-priority
             contaminants not currently regulated. (This list is known as the
             Contaminant Candidate List.) Beginning in August 2001 (and in 5-year
             cycles thereafter), the amendments require EPA to determine whether to
             regulate at least five of the contaminants on the list. A determination to
             regulate them must be based on the best available public health

             4
              A risk assessment typically involves an evaluation of (1) the likelihood that a contaminant will cause
             an adverse health effect, (2) the extent to which the population is exposed to the contaminant through
             drinking water and other sources, and (3) the relationship between the level of exposure and the
             adverse health effect.



             Page 3                                                                           GAO/T-RCED-00-15
                         information and data concerning the occurrence of the contaminant. In
                         addition to regulating new contaminants, EPA must review and revise, as
                         appropriate, existing drinking water standards at least once every 6 years.

                         The 1996 amendments also modified EPA’s standard-setting authority so
                         that health risks, risk reduction, and costs must be considered when
                         drinking water quality standards are established. When proposing a
                         regulation, EPA is required to publish an analysis of, among other things,
                         the effects of the contaminant on the general population and on
                         subpopulations that are identified as likely to be at greater risk of adverse
                         health effects due to exposure to contaminants in drinking water than the
                         general population.5 In addition, EPA is required to publish a determination
                         of whether the benefits do or do not justify the costs. To the degree that its
                         actions are based on science, EPA must use the best available
                         peer-reviewed science and supporting studies conducted in accordance
                         with sound and objective scientific practices.


                         For fiscal years 1997 through 2000, EPA annually requested millions of
EPA’s Annual Budget      dollars less than the amounts the Congress authorized for drinking water
Requests for Drinking    research and regulatory development in the 1996 amendments to the Safe
Water Research and       Drinking Water Act. Beginning with fiscal year 1998, the gap between the
                         authorized funding levels and annual budget requests was much larger for
Regulatory               drinking water research than for regulatory development, but this gap has
Development Are Less     narrowed recently for both areas. For example, in fiscal year 1999, EPA
                         requested $35.5 million for drinking water research, or 35 percent less than
Than the Legislatively   the $54.6 million that was authorized for that year. In fiscal year 2000,
Authorized Amounts       when EPA requested $41.5 million of the $54.6 million authorized for
                         drinking water research, the difference between the authorized and
                         requested funding was 24 percent. To support regulatory development
                         activities, EPA requested $40.9 million in fiscal year 1999, or about 13
                         percent less than the $47 million that was authorized. This gap was
                         reduced to about 3 percent in fiscal year 2000, when EPA requested
                         $45.5 million of the $47 million authorized for regulatory development that
                         year.

                         According to officials within both the Office of Water and the Office of
                         Research and Development, EPA does not prepare its annual budget
                         requests on the basis of the specific funding authorizations in
                         environmental statutes. Instead, the budget requests reflect (1) the level of

                         5
                          These “sensitive subpopulations” may include infants, children, pregnant women, the elderly,
                         individuals with a history of serious illness, or other groups.



                         Page 4                                                                          GAO/T-RCED-00-15
resources that agency officials believe is needed to fulfill EPA’s mission and
program responsibilities and (2) the planning ceilings and policy directives
provided by the Office of Management and Budget. Officials from the
Office of Research and Development told us that the amount of funding to
be requested annually for research on drinking water and other areas is
determined through an extensive planning process in which research
coordination teams—each responsible for a broad area of
research—determine the Office’s research priorities for the upcoming
budget year. The teams consider several factors, including the Office’s
overall research strategy, the status of ongoing research, program offices’
priorities, and statutory and budgetary constraints. Next, the Office of
Research and Development’s top management and EPA’s Research
Coordinating Council, comprising Deputy Assistant Administrators from
across the agency, review the teams’ recommendations and modify them
as appropriate to ensure that the Office’s annual budget request focuses on
the highest research priorities across the agency.

Using this process, EPA estimates only the resources needed for drinking
water (and other) research for a specific budget year, rather than the total
resources needed to carry out a multiyear research program for any given
research area. In effect, the agency determines—on an annual basis—what
research can be accomplished within the targets provided by the Office of
Management and Budget. Therefore, there is no overall estimate of
resource needs for drinking water research with which to compare the
annual budget requests for drinking water research.

In fiscal year 1998, EPA did attempt to do an unconstrained needs
assessment that would identify the activities and resources necessary to
meet the new statutory mandates of the 1996 amendments, including
requirements for drinking water research, and to achieve public health
objectives. As we reported earlier this year, EPA concluded that the
shortfall in research and data collection funding was in the range of
$10 million to $20 million annually for fiscal years 1999 through 2005.6 The
results of the assessment were presented to the National Drinking Water
Advisory Council and other stakeholders in April 1998.

EPA officials subsequently explained that the intent of the needs
assessment was not to calculate exact budget requirements but to develop
a “ballpark” estimate. In March 1999, EPA officials testified that the level
of funding received in fiscal year 1999 and requested for fiscal 2000 is

6
 Safe Drinking Water Act: Progress and Future Challenges in Implementing the 1996 Amendments
(GAO/RCED-99-31, Jan. 14, 1999).



Page 5                                                                      GAO/T-RCED-00-15
                       sufficient to provide the resources needed to (1) meet all near-term
                       requirements of the act’s amendments in a timely manner and (2) base
                       regulatory decisions on sound science.7 Officials from the Office of Water
                       and Office of Research and Development are currently conducting a
                       comprehensive evaluation of resource needs for the drinking water
                       research program for fiscal year 2001 and beyond.

                       Officials from the Office of Research and Development pointed out that
                       drinking water research as a percentage of the total research budget has
                       more than doubled—from 3.3 percent in fiscal year 1995 to 7.8 percent in
                       EPA’s fiscal 2000 budget request. While the officials acknowledge that it is
                       beyond EPA’s capacity to address all drinking water research needs, they
                       said that they have worked to establish partnerships with federal and
                       nonfederal research entities, such as the National Institute of
                       Environmental Health Sciences, the Centers for Disease Control and
                       Prevention, and the American Water Works Association Research
                       Foundation, to leverage additional resources.


                       Several stakeholders were concerned about the adequacy of EPA’s budget
Stakeholders Believe   requests for drinking water research and the proportion of the Office of
Some Research Will     Research and Development’s research budget that is devoted to drinking
Not Be Available in    water. They believe that funding for drinking water research should
                       receive a higher priority within EPA, considering its potential impact on
Time to Support        public health, and they cited specific areas, such as certain health effects
Upcoming               studies, in which they believe that funding constraints caused the research
                       to be started too late to be available when needed.
Regulations
                       Beyond the questions surrounding the funding of drinking water research,
                       stakeholders expressed concerns about the adequacy of the research that
                       will be available to support the regulations on arsenic and microbial
                       pathogens, disinfectants, and disinfection by-products.8 In the case of
                       arsenic, for example, several stakeholders told us that some of the
                       epidemiological studies,9 which will provide information on health effects,

                       7
                        Implementation of the 1996 Safe Drinking Water Act Amendments: Hearing Before Subcommittee on
                       Fisheries, Wildlife and Drinking Water of the Senate Committee on Environment and Public Works,
                       106th Cong. 13-14 (1999) (Internet, GPO Access).
                       8
                        Conventional water treatment practices require the addition of disinfectant chemicals to the water,
                       that, while effective in controlling many harmful microorganisms, combine with organic and inorganic
                       compounds in the water and form potentially harmful disinfection by-products.
                       9
                        In general, environmental epidemiological studies are used to determine whether an association
                       exists between an adverse health effect and the exposure of a population to a contaminant. Further
                       studies are often needed to confirm the epidemiological association and determine the relationship
                       between the level of exposure and the adverse health effect.



                       Page 6                                                                          GAO/T-RCED-00-15
will not be completed in time, in part, because the research was started
too late for the results to be available when needed. While some
stakeholders, such as the National Drinking Water Advisory Council and
the Association of Metropolitan Water Agencies, agree that there will be
gaps in the health effects research, they believe that sufficient information
exists to take some interim action on arsenic. They expect EPA to lower the
existing standard by the statutory deadline of January 2001, and, when the
longer-term research is completed, to consider revising the standard again.

Regarding the regulations on microbial pathogens, disinfectants, and
disinfection by-products, many stakeholders commented that some of the
health effects research—including epidemiological studies and research
on sensitive subpopulations, such as children and pregnant women—will
not be completed in time for the regulations. Both the Chairman of the
National Drinking Water Advisory Council and the Executive Director of
the National Association of Water Companies, among others, also
expressed concern about whether researchers will be able to identify
reliable analytical methods for detecting microbial contaminants, such as
cryptosporidium, that will be included in the upcoming regulations.

EPA officials acknowledge that some high-priority research projects will
not be completed in time for the upcoming regulations on arsenic and
microbial pathogens, disinfectants, and disinfection by-products. For
example, in the case of arsenic, EPA has testified that a significant
investment in health effects research must continue for several years to
address priority research needs. In the case of research on disinfection
by-products, officials from the Office of Research and Development told
us that the importance of studying certain noncancer health effects has
only recently been recognized as EPA’s understanding of the science has
evolved. Even so, EPA officials believe that the available research will be
sufficient to support the regulations with sound science. They told us that
they will issue regulations using the best available science and, when
additional research results become available, will modify the regulations,
if appropriate, as part of the review and revision of existing standards that
are required every 6 years.

Some stakeholders questioned EPA’s approach. For example, the Executive
Director of the American Water Works Association Research Foundation
sees EPA’s regulatory approach as a compromise that became necessary
because some research was started too late to be available when needed.
In addition, using a two-stage approach to regulate contaminants could
increase costs to utilities in some instances. According to the Executive



Page 7                                                       GAO/T-RCED-00-15
Director of the National Association of Water Companies, it is often not
cost-effective to make incremental changes in treatment technologies.

The consensus among stakeholders is that the availability of research for
contaminants on the Contaminant Candidate List may be the most serious
concern because relatively little research has been initiated so far and EPA
does not expect to have a research plan until May 2000. According to a
variety of stakeholders and officials within the Office of Water, EPA should
be conducting research on these contaminants now so that the regulatory
determinations and rulemakings associated with these contaminants will
be supported by sound science. However, for the most part, this research
is just now beginning. In a March 1999 hearing before the House
Committee on Science, the Assistant Administrator for the Office of
Research and Development testified that in its fiscal year 2000 budget, EPA
redirected approximately $6 million from the funding that had been
dedicated to research on microbial pathogens, disinfectants, and
disinfection by-products to fill key data gaps and develop analytical
methods for chemicals and microbial pathogens on the Contaminant
Candidate List. Although the Office of Research and Development has
already initiated research in the areas of health effects, exposure, and
treatment for selected high-priority contaminants on the list, the fiscal
year 2000 funding represents the first major reallocation of resources
within the drinking water research budget to address these research
needs.

Some stakeholders believe that EPA may have sufficient information for the
first set of regulatory determinations, which is due in August 2001.
However, stakeholders point out that the contaminants selected for the
first determinations may simply represent those for which the most
information is available—and not those that pose the most significant
health risks. Greater concerns were raised about whether EPA will have
sufficient information for the next round of determinations, which must be
made by August 2006. A number of stakeholders were particularly
concerned that little or no health effects research has been initiated for
contaminants on the Contaminant Candidate List, and some noted that
epidemiological studies can take 4 or more years to plan and conduct.
Consequently, they believe it is important to begin the work now so the
results will be available when needed.

According to stakeholders, the potential consequences of not having
adequate science to support the regulations could be significant. If EPA
issues regulations that are more stringent than what is justified by the



Page 8                                                      GAO/T-RCED-00-15
                       available research, water utilities could bear unnecessarily high treatment
                       costs. In the case of arsenic, for example, under both EPA’s and industry’s
                       projections, annual compliance costs could increase dramatically,
                       depending on how much the existing standard of 50 parts per billion is
                       lowered. Specifically, EPA has estimated that lowering the arsenic standard
                       to 10 parts per billion would result in annual compliance costs of
                       $270 million, but found that these costs would be much higher—reaching
                       an estimated $2.1 billion—if the standard were lowered to 2 parts per
                       billion. Similarly, estimates by the American Water Works Association
                       range from $708 million, at a level of 10 parts per billion, to $4.2 billion, at
                       a level of 2 parts per billion.

                       On the other hand, not having adequate research could have an impact on
                       public health. If EPA decides to set a less-stringent standard or defers
                       regulation of a contaminant because some scientific data are not available,
                       this could mean that consumers would be exposed to harmful
                       contaminants for an additional 6 or more years.10 The Natural Resources
                       Defense Council and other organizations have expressed concern about
                       the relatively limited research on the impact of drinking water
                       contaminants on sensitive subpopulations, such as pregnant women,
                       children, the elderly, and people with compromised immune systems. An
                       official with the Office of Ground Water and Drinking Water
                       acknowledged that the study of human reproductive and developmental
                       effects, in particular, is an area in which more research is needed. He told
                       us that some earlier studies indicated a possible association between
                       exposure to drinking water treated with disinfectants and these effects but
                       that additional long-term studies are needed to determine if there is any
                       basis for concern.


                       EPA  has not yet completed research plans for its anticipated work on the
EPA Has Not            Contaminant Candidate List and the review and revision of existing
Completed Some         standards, and has not developed a comprehensive research plan that
Research Plans and     integrates both near-term and long-term research needs. EPA started work
                       on a research strategy for the Contaminant Candidate List after the first
Does Not Identify or   list was published in 1998. Although EPA will be required to make a
Track the Resources    regulatory determination on at least five contaminants from the first list by
                       August 2001, the agency does not expect to complete its strategy until
Needed to Implement    May 2000. Similarly, although EPA must complete the review and revision
Existing Plans         of about 80 existing standards by August 2002, EPA only recently began the

                       10
                        Under section 102(a) of the 1996 amendments, the EPA Administrator has authority to take action
                       more quickly (i.e., promulgate an interim national primary drinking water regulation) whenever
                       contaminants are determined to pose urgent threats to public health.



                       Page 9                                                                        GAO/T-RCED-00-15
initial work associated with identifying the research needs for this effort.
EPA officials explained that at this point, they do not expect the review of
existing standards to require a significant research effort, and,
consequently, this work will be incorporated into EPA’s comprehensive
research plan, which is targeted for completion by December 2000.11

A number of stakeholders were concerned that EPA does not yet have a
comprehensive research plan. As illustrated in appendix I, EPA is required
to promulgate a number of important regulations over the next few years
and, at the same time, must begin the research necessary to support future
regulatory determinations on the Contaminant Candidate lists.
Stakeholders believe that developing a comprehensive plan would require
EPA to lay out an integrated approach for supporting ongoing regulatory
efforts and identifying and conducting research on emerging concerns,
such as the presence of pharmaceuticals in some sources of drinking
water. In addition, a long-term plan would allow the agency to be more
anticipatory and less reactive; EPA would thus be able to break the cycle in
which the research lags behind regulatory needs. Moreover, with a
comprehensive plan, stakeholders can avoid duplicating research that EPA
already plans to fund and, instead, sponsor research that complements
EPA’s efforts.


EPA has prepared detailed research plans in two significant
areas—(1) arsenic and (2) microbial pathogens, disinfectants, and
disinfection by-products. Although the plans identify the specific research
tasks that will be performed and provide information on the anticipated
accomplishments, they do not include estimates of the resources needed
to fund the planned research. As a result, it is not possible to make a link
between the estimated cost of the research laid out in the plans and the
funds requested for drinking water research in EPA’s budget—and, thus,
determine whether the research is adequately funded.

Not only do existing research plans lack key information on resource
requirements, but EPA also does not have an effective system for tracking
the progress and funding of ongoing research in relation to the plans. The
Office of Research and Development makes efforts to communicate the
status and results of its work to the Office of Water (e.g., through regular
staff-level contacts, special briefings, and status reports) and to interested
groups outside the agency through stakeholder meetings and other means.
However, officials from both the Office of Water and outside stakeholder


11
 EPA is required to develop a long-term research plan under section 202(a) of the 1996 amendments.
The statute does not impose a deadline on the plan’s completion.



Page 10                                                                       GAO/T-RCED-00-15
groups indicated that they would like to receive regular reports that
contain more detailed information on the status of projects in the research
plans, including the estimated and actual start and completion dates and
the funding for individual projects.

Because the program office needed better information to monitor the
status of the work laid out in the research plan and to track project-level
resource expenditures, the Office of Water developed its own tracking
system for the research on microbial pathogens, disinfectants, and
disinfection by-products. Since 1997, the Office of Water has paid a
contractor over $148,000 to develop and maintain the tracking system and
input data on the status of individual projects.

Better planning and a more explicit link between research needs and
resources would improve the transparency of the budget development
process. The Science Advisory Board, which annually reviews the Office
of Research and Development’s budget requests, has noted improvements
in the Office’s efforts to link research priorities with specific
environmental goals and in the coordination between the Office and the
needs of EPA’s program offices. However, in commenting on the Office’s
fiscal year 2000 budget, the Board’s Research Strategies Advisory
Committee indicated that the lack of transparency in the process used to
set research priorities made it difficult for the Committee to evaluate the
adequacy of the proposed budget. The Committee recommended that EPA
make available information on high-ranking programs that it entertained
during the budget-making process but could not fund because of overall
budget constraints and competition with other programs. In addition, the
Committee found that the criteria that EPA used to emphasize or
de-emphasize programs in the proposed budget were unclear and
recommended that EPA develop explicit criteria that can be used for setting
research priorities during the budget development process. The
Committee concluded that such an exercise would not only improve
communication and understanding of the budget process for those outside
the agency, but would also assist EPA in making its internal decision
process more efficient.

In closing, Mr. Chairman, key stakeholders in the drinking water
community have concerns about whether EPA’s research is on track to
meet the demanding regulatory agenda mandated by the Congress in the
1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act. We believe that more
detailed and better-communicated information on planned and ongoing
research would help EPA to deal with these concerns and that providing



Page 11                                                     GAO/T-RCED-00-15
such information is warranted on the grounds of both accountability and
efficiency. Identifying the nature, timing, and estimated cost of needed
research over the multiyear research plans—and linking these needs to the
annual budget request—will make the funding process more transparent.

In addition, providing information on which projects will be funded in a
given year will give stakeholders within and outside EPA a clear basis for
assessing the impact of the agency’s budget decisions. EPA’s reliance on
outside research entities to fill the gaps that are beyond the agency’s
capacity to meet makes it all the more important for EPA to identify
high-priority projects that may be deferred or abandoned because of
funding constraints. Similarly, having a more effective system for tracking
ongoing research will both enhance the budget development process and
allow stakeholders to make informed judgments about whether the
research is adequately funded and will be available when needed.

Our report being released today recommends a number of actions to
improve the transparency of the budget development process and the
effectiveness of the system used to track the progress and funding of
research projects. First, to improve the link between research needs and
resources and to better ensure that limited research funds within EPA and
other organizations are most efficiently targeted, we recommended that
EPA (1) identify the specific research that must be accomplished,
(2) establish time frames showing when the results must be available,
(3) estimate the resources that will be required to support the needed
research, and (4) use these data to develop budget requests and inform
stakeholders about what research will be funded. Second, we
recommended that EPA improve the tracking of ongoing research in
relation to existing research plans and communicate the agency’s progress
so that the Office of Research and Development’s key customers,
including the Office of Water and outside stakeholders, can obtain timely
and accurate reports on the status, timing, and funding of individual
research projects.

EPA  agreed that an adequate investment in drinking water research is
critical to provide a sound scientific basis for drinking water regulations.
The agency also noted the importance of linking multiyear research
planning to the yearly budget cycle and using effective tracking systems
for monitoring and communicating the status of research activities and
resource requirements.




Page 12                                                      GAO/T-RCED-00-15
                  Mr. Chairman, this concludes our prepared statement. We would be
                  pleased to answer any questions that you or Members of the
                  Subcommittee may have.




                  For future contacts regarding this testimony, please contact Peter F.
Contact and       Guerrero at (202) 512-6111. Individuals making key contributions to this
Acknowledgments   testimony included Ellen Crocker, Teresa Dee, and Les Mahagan.




                  Page 13                                                    GAO/T-RCED-00-15
Appendix I

Time Line for Upcoming Regulations and
Regulatory Determinations


                                             Time Line for Upcoming Regulations and Regulatory Determinations

 Nov.              Nov.
 Final             Final long-term
 groundwater       enhanced
 rule              surface water
                   treatment rule 1
                                                                                                                    Aug.              Aug.
                                                                                                                    Review and        Proposed rules
                                                                                                                    revision of       for contaminants
                                                                                                                    existing          on contaminant
                                                                                                                    standards         candidate list 2
Jan.             Aug.                 Aug.           Aug.                                     Aug.
Proposed         Regulatory           Review and     Proposed rules                           Regulatory
arsenic rule     determinations       revision of    for contaminants                         determinations
                 on contaminant       existing       on contaminant                           on contaminant
                 candidate list 1     standards      candidate list 1                         candidate list 2




       2000           2001             2002           2003             2004       2005             2006          2007        2008             2009         2010


                 Jan.                               Feb.                        Feb.                                       Feb.                          Feb.
                 Final                              Publishing of               Final rules for                            Publishing of                 Final rules for
                 arsenic                            contaminant                 contaminants on                            contaminant                   contaminants on
                 rule                               candidate list 2            contaminant                                candidate list 3              contaminant
                                                                                candidate list 1                                                         candidate list 2




 Aug.          Aug.           May             May
 Final         Final filter   Final long-     Stage 2
 radon rule    backwash       term            disinfectants/
               recycling      enhanced        disinfection
               rule           surface         by-products
                              water           rule
                              treatment
                              rule 2

                                                               Source: Based on information from EPA.




(160508)                                                        Page 14                                                                              GAO/T-RCED-00-15
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