An EPA official testified before a House subcommittee that almost 40 percent of the nation's waters assessed by states still do not meet quality goals established under the Clean Water Act.

G. Tracy Mehan III, assistant administrator for the EPA's Office of Water, also testified before the House Subcommittee on Water Resources and Environment that the agency and some states are taking steps to improve the Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program.

According to Mehan, all states submitted their lists of impaired waters in 1998, and even though the requirements to submit a list in 2000 was set aside, more than 12 states submitted lists last year. Approximately 20,000 water bodies have been identified as impaired. The next list of impaired water is due Oct. 1, 2002. The EPA has begun a series of listening sessions across the country to gather ideas from the public about ways to improve the TMDL program. Mehan said the EPA hopes to propose a new rule next spring and promulgate a final rule before April 30, 2003.

The EPA also is seeking input from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, which could help strengthen the agricultural, forestry and natural resource systems perspective in the final TMDL rule.

The EPA's Office of Research and Develop-ment is developing diagnostic methods and models for determining TMDLs, as well as tools to make decisions for watershed managers to identify cost-effective approaches to meet TMDL limits.