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EPA Highlights Enhanced Efficiencies to Improve Management of America’s Water Resources

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EPA Press Office (

WASHINGTON - Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) Office of Water highlighted actions to improve the efficiency of key Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act processes. This announcement continues the agency’s focus on progress made under the EPA Lean Management System (ELMS). Efficiency improvements in the Office of Water are enhancing the agency’s support of state and local partners while better protecting public health and the environment.

“Ensuring that all Americans have access to safe water requires coordination at the federal, state, and local levels,” said EPA Assistant Administrator for Water David Ross. “Under this Administration, EPA has reduced its backlog of action on state and local submittals to more efficiently serve these partners while more effectively protecting our nation’s vital water resources and supporting the water economy.”

Since 2017, EPA’s Office of Water has prioritized timely action on state submittals and has implemented ELMS to improve over 33 processes across the office. As a result of these efforts, the Office of Water has dramatically reduced its backlog of action on state submittals. Highlights include:

  • Reducing the backlog of EPA federally issued National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits by 32% from 2017 levels.
  • Eliminating the backlog of action on states’ lists of impaired waters—marking the first time in a decade that the backlog was eliminated.
  • Cutting the backlog of action on submitted state priority TMDLs by 99%—from more than 100 in 2017 to just one state priority TMDL.
  • Shrinking the Federal Underground Injection Control (UIC) Class II permit backlog by 70% from 2018 levels.

ELMS is an agency-wide systematic approach to continuous process improvement. It is based on lean principles used for years by the private sector and is comprised of six components: visual management, standard process, cascading performance measures, problem solving, business reviews and huddles, and leader behaviors. EPA implementation of each of these elements has allowed EPA to make significant improvements to the speed and quality at which it delivers its services to the American people.

For more information about EPA’s successes under ELMS, see