EPA’s Clean Water Rule crucial to preserving water quality

This Carolina Bay in the Francis Marion National Forest, SC is part of the 20 million acres of wetlands and thousands of miles of streams now guaranteed protections under the Clean Water Rule. (© Bill Lea)

The final Clean Water Rule released today by the EPA and Army Corps clarifies protections for drinking water sources throughout the country, including 20 million Americans in the Southeast.

Today’s rule better defines wetlands and smaller water sources, removing many years of uncertainty. Previously, debates on the ground about where intermittent and ephemeral streams started or ended left many water sources without guaranteed protections. This was of particular concern due to studies showing the linkages between these smaller waterways and waters downstream, many of which contain drinking water intakes.

“This rule recognizes that clean water is only guaranteed when critical systems are protected based on the connections they share with streams and rivers,” said Senior Attorney Bill Sapp.

Without the protections outlined in the Clean Water Rule for small streams and wetlands, factories, sewage treatment facilities, and other direct dischargers of pollution could dump directly into these waterways without so much as a public notice or permitting process.

“It’s simple. If we want our larger streams and rivers to be healthy and clean, then we need to protect the smaller tributaries that flow into them,” said Deputy Legislative Director Navis Bermudez.

The EPA received more than 800,000 comments in support of the draft version of the rule, including comments submitted from SELC on behalf of over 40 groups, encouraging clarified protections for a crucial Southern resource.

To see SELC’s maps of the Southeastern waterways, click here.

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