A new rule to protect drinking water was issued by the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on May 27. The Clean Water Rule clarifies which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act.
The Clean Water Act, created in 1972, has been effective for decades in protecting drinking water in the United States. However, decisions from the Supreme Court in 2001 and 2006 created confusion about which streams should be protected, leaving more than half of them and million acres of wetlands vulnerable to degradation—including important water bodies like Chesapeake Bay.
The streams affected by the rule have a direct and significant connection to bigger tributaries already protected under the Clean Water Act. Landowners now have guidance what is expected of them to protect these natural environments.
The health of small streams that feed into bigger water bodies is essential to the purity of the entire hydrographic basin— the same can be said about wetlands located upstream. The ecosystems protected under the Clean Water Rule provides numerous benefits to communities, like recharging groundwater supplies, filtering pollution, and providing habitat for numerous species.
But even with 1 in every 3 Americans getting their drinking water from streams that lack clear rules for protection, the Clean Water Rule is facing resistance from the likes of republican members of Congress and farm groups. These unsatisfied groups have lobbied against the rule to prevent the EPA from implementation. It is now blocked by the House, and the same efforts are happening in the Senate. Republicans argue that the rule is vague and has been created with the intention to expand Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction, while farmers are concerned that every small water body in their private land will now be subjected to federal overlook.
The image voters have of their representatives in Senate might change depending on the position they adopt in this subject. A survey conducted in the beginning of May by the League of Conservation Voters showed that 80% of the 800 registered voters support the Clean Water Rule. Additionally, 69% of them would view their Senator less favorably if they voted against the protections proposed in the rule.
Organizations are trying to influence regulations regarding the environment based on their private interests. However, what they do not realize is that trying to use natural resources unsustainably and without necessary regulations to avoid pollution of waterways and degradation of wetlands will cause harm to general population, including them and their businesses. There has to be clear regulations about natural resources to ensure they last for generations to come and avoid their indiscriminate use.
The Clean Water Rule is simple: keep our waterways safe and drinking water clean.