Federal Water Tap, July 29: EPA Groundwater Protection Program Needs Better Oversight, Watchdog Says

In light of the steady rise in domestic oil and gas production, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency should review new risks to underground sources of drinking water, according to the government’s internal watchdog.

The Government Accountability Office asserts that the EPA needs to improve two areas of oversight for the nation’s 172,000 class two underground injection wells. These are deep wells – often penetrating several thousand feet – that serve to increase the flow of oil and gas or to dispose of salty water.

First, the EPA should evaluate new risks from underground injection, such as the potential to cause earthquakes and high subterranean pressures that can propel the waste back to the surface, leading to a spill.

Second, the EPA should improve its oversight. The GAO recommends that the agency review its management guidelines, which date to the 1980s, in order to set clear priorities. The agency should also develop consistent rules for reporting data so that state-managed programs can be compared.

Groundwater Rerouted
Decades of pumping the aquifers adjacent to the Rio Grande have caused the subsurface water to flow away from the river and toward the wells, the U.S. Geological Survey reports.

Albuquerque began importing water from the Colorado River in 2008 in order to wean itself from unsustainable groundwater use.

Idaho Water Bill
President Obama signed legislation that will allow the continued maintenance and operation of reservoirs and canals in two federally designated wilderness areas in Idaho.

Gulf Oil Spill Review
The Senate Commerce Committee will meet on Tuesday to gauge the progress of the Restore Act, a 2012 law that set up two funds for disbursing money from legal settlements related to the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

Federal Water Tap is a weekly digest spotting trends in U.S. government water policy. To get more water news, follow Circle of Blue on Twitter and sign up for our newsletter.

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