The Clean Water Act was established in 1972. In an historic step to update this legislation, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army finalized the Clean Water Rule to clearly protect fresh water sources from pollution and degradation.
According to the EPA, this rule ensures that waters protected under the Clean Water Act “are more precisely defined and predictably determined, making permitting less costly, easier, and faster for businesses and industry.” Although the rule is grounded in the latest science and law, it is also influenced by public input and does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions.
“For the water in the rivers and lakes in our communities that flow to our drinking water to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them need to be clean too,” said EPA Administrator Gina McCarthy in a press release. “Protecting our water sources is a critical component of adapting to climate change impacts like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms, and warmer temperatures – which is why EPA and the Army have finalized the Clean Water Rule to protect these important waters, so we can strengthen our economy and provide certainty to American businesses.”
“Today’s rule marks the beginning of a new era in the history of the Clean Water Act,” said Assistant Secretary for the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy. “This is a generational rule and completes another chapter in history of the Clean Water Act. This rule responds to the public’s demand for greater clarity, consistency, and predictability when making jurisdictional determinations. The result will be better public service nationwide.”
This action is intended to protect the health of approximately 117 million Americans or about one in three people who consume drinking water from streams that were not protected prior to the Clean Water Rule’s finalization. A healthy way of life depends on clean water, as healthy ecosystems provide wildlife habitat and places to fish, paddle, surf, and swim.
The clean water rule:
- Clearly defines and protects tributaries that impact the health of downstream waters.
- Provides certainty in how far safeguards extend to nearby waters.
- Protects the nation’s regional water treasures.
- Focuses on streams, not ditches.
- Maintains the status of waters within Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems. Reduces the use of case-specific analysis of waters.
The Clean Water Rule only protects the types of waters that have been covered under the Clean Water Act. This rule does not regulate groundwater, most ditches, , shallow subsurface flows, or tile drains.
The Clean Water Rule will be effective 60 days after publication in the Federal Register