GAO: Washington State Slow on Clean Water Reporting

The Clean Water Act mandates reporting of ‘impaired waters’ to support conservation and restoration efforts.

1 minute read

December 19, 2023, 11:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

View of river in Washington State surrounded by lush forest.

The Icicle River in Washington state. | Chris Anson / Adobe Stock

A new report from the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reveals that Washington state is years behind on reporting polluted waterways. In an article for High Country News, Kylie Mohr describes the requirements set out by the Clean Water Act, which “requires each state to maintain a list of water bodies that don’t meet federal standards and submit an update to the Environmental Protection Agency every two years.” The lists are designed to help government agencies and the public understand local conditions and risks and prioritize cleanup efforts.

According to the GAO report, Washington has missed submission deadlines since 2012. “State officials attributed the backlog to the number and complexity of Washington’s water bodies and the amount of data collected by other agencies, saying it takes time to bring everything together.” The state also consults with dozens of tribal communities affected by conservation efforts. 

Washington Department of Ecology Director Laura Watson, in a written response to the report, said “Ecology disagrees with the report’s focus on the timeliness of the state’s impaired waters lists as a key component of salmon recovery in Washington.”

Thursday, December 14, 2023 in High Country News

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