If you drink water or like to swim or fish in rivers and lakes, you should be happy about a recent proposal by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).and the Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps). These agencies have taken important steps toward clarifying what small streams, wetlands and other waters can be protected from pollution and development.
Clean Water Action, our members, and allies have long advocated for stronger protections for vulnerable headwater streams and wetlands that feed drinking water supplies for more than a third of all Americans and support water quality of downstream rivers, lakes and bays. But, for more than a decade, many of these water bodies have been at risk because of two Supreme Court rulings and subsequent Bush Administration policies that called into question whether or not they are protected by the Clean Water Act.
On September 17, 2013, EPA released the first-ever report on the “connectivity” of smaller streams and wetlands to downstream rivers, lakes, and bays. This report is a synthesis of over 1000 peer-reviewed studies and articles about how these smaller streams and wetlands are connected to larger ones and perform critical functions that benefit whole watersheds.
These vital functions include filtering pollutants like nutrients and providing protection from flooding. Once finalized, this report will provide the scientific foundation for the EPA to move forward with a rule to clarify what water bodies should be afforded Clean Water Act protections.
Stronger regulations are needed to protect drinking water supplies for over 117 million Americans and over 20 million acres of wetlands that have been vulnerable to pollution and destruction for over a decade. This science report is a great step in the right direction and EPA is expected to finalize the report later in 2014. Clean Water Action, along with several other environmental, conservation and sportsmen’s organizations, spoke out in support of the agencies having the best available information at their disposal in order to inform their decision making.
Read our letter to the Science Advisory Board here