For over 40 years, the Clean Water Act has ensured that Americans have clean water to drink and that our rivers, beaches, lakes, and streams are safe for outdoor recreation. Americans recreate in the water – swimming, paddling, surfing, boating, fishing – 4 billion times each year (source).
As crucial as it is, the Clean Water Act has not been without debate, and deciding which waters to protect has reached the Supreme Court a few times. People still get sick from polluted water. Although there are opportunities to strengthen the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) recently proposed a new rule that would weaken it considerably.
The new rule would make changes to the Waters of the U.S. (WOTUS) by removing protections for seasonal streams and adjacent wetlands. Seasonal streams and wetlands are important because they feed into downstream waters where we recreate, and that are the source of clean drinking water.
As written, the Clean Water Act stipulates that, for example, if you are a landowner and every spring, a seasonal stream runs through your property and eventually joins with a larger river, you are not allowed to dump pollutants into that stream. Why? Because all those pollutants run downhill and end up in your town’s drinking water or in rivers and oceans where paddling, swimming, and surfing are cherished and valuable activities.
As written, this rule would put the drinking water of 1 in 3 Americans at risk and strip protections for tens of millions of acres of wetlands (source). Healthy headwaters are important for clean water in the rivers, lakes, and beaches where we all enjoy recreating.
The EPA is collecting feedback from Americans on the new WOTUS rule until April 15. It’s important for people who love getting outside to speak up here. We have a powerful voice and this is a key time to use it. We’ve made it simple to send a message using the tool below – we encourage you to personalize it!