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Speeches By EPA Administrator

 

Press Conference on Index of atershed Indicators- Washington, D.C.

10/02/1997
               Carol M. Browner, Administrator
             U.S. Environmental Protection Agency
                Remarks Prepared for Delivery
      Press Conference on Index of Watershed Indicators
                        Washington, DC
                       October 2, 1997
                               
                               
                               
                               
    Welcome and thank you for being here today.


     Today we are going to tell you about a new right-to-know initiative at EPA -- one that is
designed to give the American people ready access to information about water pollution in their
communities.


     We call it the Index of Watershed Indicators.

     Watersheds, of course, are those areas bounded by ridge lines that catch precipitation and
runoff -- and that drain into rivers, lakes, wetlands or groundwater.  In this country, there are
more than 2,000 watersheds.  And the level of pollution in each of them is a critical factor in the
quality of nearby bodies of water -- and in drinking water sources.


     Now, anyone with access to the internet -- through a computer at home or at work, or at a
school or public library -- has the power to obtain vital information about pollution and about
water quality in most of the nation's watersheds.  All they have to do is contact the Index of
Watershed Indicators web site at www.epa.gov/surf/iwi, enter a zip code and the information is
right there for them to read -- in a user-friendly format.


     The Index rates watersheds based on their overall health.  It also provides more detailed
information on 15 separate indicators -- including threats to drinking water, fish consumption
advisories, condition of the underlying sediments, and the status of wetlands.


     It's all part of this administration's philosophy that people know what's best for their own
communities and, given the facts, they themselves will determine what is best to protect public
health and the environment.


     We believe that when they are armed with this kind of information, Americans will accept
their responsibility to join together to reduce pollution in their communities.


     In fact, we have found that putting information into the hands of citizens is one of the
most effective things we can do to reduce harmful pollution.


     Since 1988, when EPA first started making public our Toxic Release Inventory, industrial
facilities required to report their toxic releases have reduced their emissions by almost half.


     Today, we expand that focus to our watersheds.

     You may be surprised to know that, in the majority of our nation's watersheds, the biggest
source of pollution is not factories but runoff from a variety of urban and rural sources.  And
runoff can affect some of America's largest bodies of water, including the Mississippi River and
the Chesapeake Bay.


     So what is the state of the nation's watersheds?

     Our latest data show that 16 percent of them have good water quality, and another 36
percent have moderate quality.  Another 21 percent have serious water quality problems.  And we
don't have enough information about the remaining 27 percent to make a determination.


     Our hope is that by putting the Index of Watershed Indicators on the internet, we will
increase the level of awareness across the country regarding pollution threats to rivers, lakes,
wetlands, coastal waters and drinking water supplies.


     Once people learn more about how much pollution there is and where it is coming from,
we believe they will work together -- with businesses large and small and with all levels of
government -- to take steps to protect the quality of their water and the health of their
communities.


     That's why right-to-know is so important to protecting public health and the environment.
And that's why we are taking this step today.


     On that note, let me close by thanking the Department of Agriculture, the Department of
the Interior, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration and the Nature Conservancy
for their help and their contributions of data to this initiative.


     Thank you.