In a memorandum issued last Thursday, Lisa P. Jackson, Administrator of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), stated that “water in the United States is not meeting public health and environmental goals. Too many of our streams, lakes and rivers do not meet our water quality standards.” It is the poor condition of our nation’s water that prompted Administrator Jackson to make some changes and lengthen the EPA’s stride in water protection and quality standards this week.
In order to maintain a higher water quality standard, Jackson looked at the state of things and realized that one way to clean up our rivers and streams was to clean up the streams of information that flow from administrators to the public. She decided that transparency in the agency would help create transparency in the water.
Thus, the EPA has made available comprehensive reports and data on water enforcement in all 50 states. The goal of making the reports public is to increase transparency, promote the public’s right to know about the quality of the water that they use and provide information on the EPA’s actions to protect water under the Clean Water Act.
In last week’s memo, Jackson acknowledged that it is neither the sole job of the EPA or the states to improve water quality, but that both must work together, especially in these challenging economic times. She believes that a coordinated effort between the EPA and the states can lead to positive steps that will quickly improve compliance and enhance water quality.
The first step is transparency. Jackson stated that “an informed public is our best ally in pressing for better compliance.” The public has a right to know what is being done to protect and improve the quality of their water. Making these records available in user friendly ways will allow the public to analyze what is being done; and if the public want more to be done, they can then push for greater action to be taken.
The next step is to raise the bar for clean water enforcement performance. Jackson pushed for stronger action and enforcement against violators of hte law, which threaten the quality of water. “And we must assure that we are doing the work that is most important to clean up our nation’s waters,” she said.
Third, the EPA’s information technology must be moved into the 21st century. Through the use of modern technology, reports need to be made available: transparency. But more than just having information available at the click of a mouse, the information needs to be easily digested by the public. And not only should the information be transparent, but it should move from its spring in the upper tiers of administration to its lakes and streams of public access quickly – in real-time.
Jackson hopes that these steps will greatly encourage the improvement of water quality across the nation. Hopefully clearing up the information will have the desired effect of clearing up the nation’s water.
Photo Credit: Denis Collette…!!! via flickr under Creative Commons License