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Better monitoring techniques are needed to assess the quality of rivers and streams, according to a recent report to Congress by the General Accounting Office (GAO). Water samples are taken too infrequently, GAO says, and stations are placed too far apart ‘to deal with the complex nature of water quality.’

‘Accurate, reliable data on the actual condition of the nation's rivers and streams are necessary for sound environmental planning and management,’ writes Milton J. Socolar, acting comptroller general of the United States, in the cover letter that accompanies the report. ‘Existing national water-quality monitoring networks operated by the Environmental Protection Agency [EPA] and the U.S. Geological Survey [USGS] … do not provide the type or quality of data needed.’