TITLE: EPA Office of Water

Access: http://www.epa.gov/ow/

The EPA Office of Water Web site springs from its massive parent site, the Environmental Protection Agency. Like its parent, it offers a wealth of information to a wide audience, including school children and consumers wondering about water quality, business and industries seeking regulatory information, and individuals and organizations seeking grant or funding information.

As one would expect from a government agency site, much is offered in the way of laws and regulations, reports and newsletters. The full text of the Clean Water and Safe Drinking Water Acts is available here, for example, as well as Office of Water Federal Register Notices. One can also order publications and videotapes relating to the Office of Water and related EPA offices such as the Office of Wetlands, Oceans and Watersheds. A calendar provides links to press releases, conference proceedings, and other Web sites. The main page provides six broad category selections, links to National Water Programs, and a drop-down menu offering a wide variety of specific water topics. Other buttons below lead to such reference tools such as Office of Water documents, databases, and software.

But this site also offers a phenomenal amount of information for the average citizen. The main page provides a "Concerned Citizens" button that gateways to additional topics such as "About Water," leading to "Water On Tap: A Consumer's Guide to the Nation's Drinking Water" and other reports. Additional choices include "Geographic Information," "Human Health Concerns," and more. From the main page one can search a map for water information by state. An "Environmental Websites" database offers a collection of hundreds of Web sites, searchable by state, full text, information type and keywords. The interactive "Watershed Information Network" (WIN) allows users to add information to the database, join discussion lists, or add calendar information. Children and teachers will enjoy the "Kids' Page" offerings of fun facts about water, environmental projects and programs, and educational materials and learning aids.

The site's overall design is excellent. Content rich, it is thoughtfully designed and easily navigated. Graphics are used judiciously and effectively, and backgrounds and fonts are easy on the eyes. Standard menu buttons and links are consistently placed and intuitive. In addition to the expected help paths for users to communicate questions, comments or problems to the site administrators, a new customer satisfaction questionnaire has been added to elicit suggestions for improvements from readers.

Judith A. Matthews
Michigan State University

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