Protecting Our Clean Water

Every day, our families and communities count on clean water. Protecting the South’s waters against pollution is SELC's top priority.


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Water is a way of life in the South

SELC is a principal defender of basic national clean water protections that are now under attack.  Protecting the South’s waters against pollution is our top priority.  Clean water is fundamental to the South’s way of life. Every day, our families count on clean water for drinking, cooking, and bathing. Our agricultural economies depend on clean water. Our local businesses rely on clean water—from our local breweries and restaurants to tourism, fishing, hunting, and outdoor outfitters. The health of our waters, families, and communities are tied together throughout the South.

Toxic brew of polluters and politics

Despite the fundamental necessity of clean water, one of the earliest decisions by the Trump administration was to attack the protective reach of the Clean Water Act, which has kept our nation’s waters clean for nearly 50 years. This national law is a central tool used by state and local governments to shield and protect clean water needed for healthy communities and families.  The big polluter interests want to see that shield thrown away.

Specifically, the EPA signed a rule to remove protection from a host of upstream waters, such as smaller streams, tributaries and millions of acres of wetlands. Now that it is in effect, thousands of stream miles in the United States are at risk. In the South, this rule puts at risk the drinking water sources for over 32 million people, or seven out of ten Southerners. A host of upstream waters such as smaller streams and wetlands would be at risk of pollution and fill under this rule. Estimates show it would end protections for millions of acres of wetlands in the contiguous United States.

Allowing open dumping into upstream waters spells trouble for everyone downstream.  Pollution dumped by industry flows from smaller streams into our rivers and lakes, across state lines, and downriver, contaminating waters used by families and communities for drinking water and recreation. The best way to protect clean water is to stop harmful pollution at its source, before it reaches our waterways.

Protecting our families and communities

SELC, its partners, and citizens across the South are fighting against big polluters and bad politics to make sure that toxic pollution of our waters stays illegal, and our waterways have all necessary protections. On April 29, 2020, SELC challenged in federal court the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers’ re-definition of what waters are protected under the Clean Water Act on behalf of 14 conservation groups. The administration's rule leaves many waterways unprotected as well as the communities and wildlife that rely on them.

Earlier, we submitted comments opposing this administration’s proposal to shrink the Clean Water Act’s protective shield on behalf of eighty conservation and community organizations.

We’ll continue to fight to preserve those protections and prevent a repeal of the environmental standards that have allowed economic prosperity and environmental protection to go hand in hand over the last 50 years. Together, those of us who love this region we call home will beat back these threats to the streams, rivers, lakes, and oceans we hold dear.