GAO Releases Report on Alternative Drinking Water Systems in Very Small Communities

The U.S. Government Accountability Office (GAO) recently completed a report on the use of alternative drinking water systems that serve very small communities (500 of fewer people). Smaller communities often lack resources to update or support drinking water systems, and this report investigates how new alternative systems may potentially cut costs and outperform conventional approaches. This report details the use of alternative drinking water systems in very small communities, the range of associated cost savings, and technical assistance programs administered by EPA and USDA.

The report found limited information on the use of alternative drinking water systems in these very small communities. This was due to limited treatment information reported on SDWIS, as some systems use multiple processes and technologies, but only one is required to be reported in EPA’s SDWIS database.

Cost savings for very small communities had an unknown range because it is very case-specific and several factors like distance from a community to a supplier and availability of conventional system options. For technical assistance, EPA and USDA each manage two programs that provide funds for technical assistance and training to drinking water systems serving 10,000 or fewer people. These programs provided $62.9 million to $96 million in fiscal years 2016 through 2018. For the full report and more information click here.