Policy Pulse: Clean Water Rule Passes Intense Scientific Review

Clean Water_credit Ken Sturm USFWS

In January, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) finalized a science report confirming that water quality in headwater streams, wetlands, and other open waters can affect water quality downstream. While this is simply common sense to most sportsmen and others who love the outdoors, opponents of the clean water rule called the science into question.

The League applauds EPA’s extensive scientific review of water connections and calls on the agency to quickly finalize a pending rule that will restore Clean Water Act protections to streams, wetlands, and other at-risk waters.

EPA evaluated more than 1,200 peer-reviewed, published studies on the effects that streams, non-tidal wetlands, and open waters have on larger downstream waters, including rivers, lakes, estuaries, and oceans. The report, Connectivity of Streams and Wetlands to Downstream Waters, found that regardless of size or frequency of flow, streams are connected to downstream waters in ways that strongly influence their health. According to EPA, approximately 60 percent of stream miles in the United States may only flow seasonally or after rain, but they have a considerable impact on water quality downstream. In addition, the report confirmed that the incremental contributions of individual streams and wetlands are cumulative across entire watersheds.

Approximately 117 million people – that’s one in three Americans – get their drinking water from public systems fed by streams that are currently at risk of losing Clean Water Act protections. These streams and at-risk wetlands also support healthy fish and wildlife populations as well as fishing, hunting, and other outdoor recreation.

Despite the science, some members of Congress are continuing their attacks on the clean water rule through hearings and bills to block protections. We must remain vigilant to ensure that science and common sense prevail and America’s waters receive the protection they all deserve.