What does the incoming administration and new Congress mean for clean water in the South?

The Clean Water Rule protects the drinking water sources of millions of Americans. (© Amy Benoit)

The South is lucky to have more miles of rivers-and more types of rivers-than any other region in the country. Unfortunately, under the new federal administration and a new Congress, these precious resources may be at risk for pollution as newly-elected officials take aim at dismantling key protections for these waters.

For decades, the Clean Water Act has been a successful tool in cleaning up and protecting our nation’s waters. Last year, to clarify the Clean Water Act’s protections for small streams and wetlands, the Obama administration finalized the Clean Water Rule. The rule resolves long-unanswered questions about the size and types of waters under federal protection. Currently the rule is not in effect while it is the subject of litigation, but SELC is working to protect the rule in the courts.

Meanwhile the incoming Trump Administration and Congress have already vowed to kill this important rule that would help protect the sources of drinking water for 1 in 3 Americans.

If the incoming President and new Congress scrap the Clean Water Rule as they’ve threatened to do, sources of drinking water in the Southeast will be at risk for pollution because:

  • 55% of Alabamans
  • 55% of Tennesseans
  • 49% of Georgians
  • 48% of North Carolinians
  • 40% of South Carolinians and
  • 28% percent of Virginians

all get their drinking water from sources that rely on the small streams protected by the Clean Water Rule.

In addition to the threats to drinking water sources, the loss of the Clean Water Rule would be bad for small businesses and the hunting and fishing community. Seventy-one percent of small business owners think that strong clean water protections are necessary for local jobs and a healthy economy. Further, wildlife recreation and fishing is very popular in our region. The most recent estimates from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service show that almost 16 million people across our six-state region participated in these activities, providing a significant boost to our economy.

The clarity the Clean Water Rule provides in protecting and cleaning up these important water resources benefits communities across the country. Clean water is necessary for a thriving economy and access to clean drinking water for all people, regardless of political affiliation.

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