The Death of the Clean Water Rule

The Clean Water Rule, which President Obama finalized in June 2015, is about to be rolled back under President Trump. This rule is designed to clear up confusion over which bodies of water the federal government can regulate under the Clean Water Act. Trump is seeking to roll back this rule to cover fewer bodies of water.

Many are predicting that Trump’s version of the Clean Water Rule will roll back protections for ephemeral or intermittent streams. These are streams that only flow during rainy weather or during certain seasons. Because they do not flow year-round, they have been easy targets for deregulation. Despite not flowing year-round, these waterways are crucial to the overall quality of our drinking water.

Like many areas of the environment, waterways are inextricably linked to one another. By deregulating one, you risk contaminating or polluting any bodies of water that are downstream of the deregulated stream. This is of particular importance under the Clean Water Rule because ecosystems are dependent upon ephemeral or intermittent streams and contamination of these streams can significantly harm plant and animal life. Additionally, EPA estimates that one-third of Americans (about 117 million) get all or some of their water from public drinking water systems that depend at least partly on ephemeral or intermittent streams. Removing protections for these streams could cause incurable harm to human safety, as well. These impacts are more likely to affect the most vulnerable amongst us, as those with fewer resources or political power are least able to mitigate damages from unsafe drinking water.

Given the recent and still ongoing lessons of Flint and thousands of other places with lead-contaminated drinking water, our federal government should be doing more to provide protection to sources of drinking water. If you are concerned about this deregulation of the nation’s waterways, please reach out to the Whitehouse, your Congressmen, and local elected officials to ensure that they advocate for the safety and quality of our waterways.