UPDATE: November 2015
The Senate is attacking these landmark clean water protections. In early November the Senate will vote on S 1140, the Dirty Water Act and S.J. Res. 22, the Dirty Water Resolution.
On Wednesday, May 27, the Obama Administration finalized the Clean Water Rule.
A long overdue proposal to protect most streams and wetlands, released by the Obama administration in March 2014, will ensure that the drinking water for nearly one third of all Americans is no longer at risk of pollution.
It’s pretty simple - all water is connected. Even kids understand that. The health of our rivers, lakes, and bays depend on the streams and wetlands that flow into them. The health of our nation’s rivers, lakes, and bays depends on the network of small streams and wetlands that flow into them.
Here’s what’s at stake:
These resources are also economic drivers for our communities. Recreationists, farmers, hunters, anglers, and businesses ranging from clean tech to craft brewers all depend on clean water. Anglers alone generated nearly $115 billion in economic activity in 2011, breathing life into rural communities and supporting more than one million jobs.
Despite the importance of small streams and wetlands, these vital water bodies have been vulnerable to pollution or destruction for more than a decade. For nearly 12 years Clean Water Action, our members, and our allies have fought to protect the drinking water for so many of us – and the the Obama Administration listened. This proposal to finally restore protections to most streams and wetlands is smart policy and it is desperately needed.
Because of two polluter friendly Supreme Court decision, more than half the nation's small streams and nearly 20 million acres of wetlands have been vulnerable to pollution and destruction because of confusion about whether or not they are protected under the Clean Water Act. Things weren’t always this confusing – in fact, when Congress approved the Clean Water Act in 1972 it was with the understanding that all streams and wetlands can impact the biological, physical and chemical integrity of larger, downstream waters like rivers, lakes, and bays. The good news is this new proposal clears up a lot of the confusion and restores long-standing Clean Water Act protections for many of these vulnerable streams and wetlands.
If finalized in its current form, this new policy will restore protections to most streams, regardless of size or frequency of flow, and to all wetlands inside of floodplains. Unfortunately this proposal leaves some uncertainty regarding protections for wetlands outside of floodplains, that are seasonally “wet,” like vernal pools, prairie potholes, and playa lakes. This is disappointing because, while these wetlands may only be “wet” during certain times of the year, they are hugely important to wildlife and they were protected by the Clean Water Act prior to 2001. They also provide many of the same benefits to rivers, lakes, and bays as wetlands inside of floodplains.