Good Government: The EPA Protects Our Drinking Water

Clean water rules released on Wednesday will give the EPA more power to protect our drinking water:

The Waters of the United States rule, developed by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, offers protection to two million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands that, until now, were not clearly designated under the Clean Water Act. The rule clarifies what tributaries and wetlands are part of the overall water system and will decrease confusion and expense, the EPA and Army Corps said Wednesday.

“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. “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.”

President Obama on the new rules:

For more than 40 years, American families and businesses across the country have counted on the Clean Water Act to protect the streams and wetlands we rely on for our way of life – from recreation to public health to a growing economy. In recent years, however, court decisions have led to uncertainty and a need for clarification. One in three Americans now gets drinking water from streams lacking clear protection, and businesses and industries that depend on clean water face uncertainty and delay, which costs our economy every day. Too many of our waters have been left vulnerable to pollution. That’s why I called on the Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to clear up the confusion and uphold our basic duty to protect these vital resources.

Today, after extensive input from the American public, they’re doing just that – finalizing the Clean Water Rule to restore protection for the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of our nation’s water resources, without getting in the way of farming, ranching, or forestry. This rule will provide the clarity and certainty businesses and industry need about which waters are protected by the Clean Water Act, and it will ensure polluters who knowingly threaten our waters can be held accountable. My Administration has made historic commitments to clean water, from restoring iconic watersheds like the Chesapeake Bay and the Great Lakes to preserving more than a thousand miles of rivers and other waters for future generations. With today’s rule, we take another step towards protecting the waters that belong to all of us.

The EPA press release: Clean Water Rule Protects Streams and Wetlands Critical to Public Health, Communities, and Economy:

Washington – In an historic step for the protection of clean water, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army finalized the Clean Water Rule today to clearly protect from pollution and degradation the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation’s water resources.

The 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. The rule is grounded in law and the latest science, and is shaped by public input. The rule does not create any new permitting requirements for agriculture and maintains all previous exemptions and exclusions. […]

People need clean water for their health: About 117 million Americans – one in three people – get drinking water from streams that lacked clear protection before the Clean Water Rule. America’s cherished way of life depends on clean water, as healthy ecosystems provide wildlife habitat and places to fish, paddle, surf, and swim. Clean and reliable water is an economic driver, including for manufacturing, farming, tourism, recreation, and energy production. The health of our rivers, lakes, bays, and coastal waters are impacted by the streams and wetlands where they begin.

Good government: sensible regulations that are good for people and good for the economy.


  1. The importance of clean drinking water cannot be overstated.

    Charlie Pierce noted that Detroit is cutting off the water supply to its poorest residents again:

    It should not be necessary to point this out (again) but human beings cannot live without clean water. This simple fact seems lost on John Boehner and the crazoids of his monkeyhouse, who are currently in atmospheric dudgeon because the president acted to keep clean water available around the country.

    “The administration’s decree to unilaterally expand federal authority is a raw and tyrannical power grab that will crush jobs…The rule is being shoved down the throats of hardworking people with no input, and places landowners, small businesses, farmers and manufacturers on the road to a regulatory and economic hell.”

    Shoved down throats … tyrannical power grab … no input (I guess the 400 stakeholders who were involved in the process are an inconvenient fact).

    Good government would be even better with an intelligent Congress. The “economic hell” envisioned by John Boehner is the one where his overlords threaten donations to his political caucus. The rest of us think that having clean drinking water is important.

    From Charlie, pointing to the situation in India as they suffer a terrible heat wave:

    It should not be necessary to point this out (again) but without water, people get sick and then they die. That’s the way it works in India and that’s the way it works in Detroit. That’s the way it works now. That’s the way it will work in the future. […]

    We start debating the cost of water and we are well on our way to actual, informal death panels, especially if half the political system in the country remains bughouse nuts on the subject of climate change. The need for water is not a negotiable proposition. You get water, or you die.

  2. From the White House blog: Reasons We Need the Clean Water Rule

    Today, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army are finalizing a Clean Water Rule to protect the streams and wetlands we rely on for our health, our economy, and our way of life.

    As summer kicks off, many of us plan to be outside with our friends and families — fishing, paddling, surfing, and swimming. And for the lakes and rivers we love to be clean, the streams and wetlands that feed them have to be clean, too. That’s just one of many reasons why this rule is so important. Here are several more (details at the link):

    – Clean water is vital to our health.
    – Our economy depends on clean water.
    – Clean water helps farms thrive, and the rule preserves commonsense agriculture exemptions.
    – Climate change makes protection of water resources even more essential.
    – Clear protections mean cleaner water.
    – Science shows us the most important waters to protect.
    – You asked for greater clarity.

    Just as importantly, there are lots of things the rule doesn’t do.

    The rule only protects waters historically covered under the Clean Water Act. It doesn’t interfere with private property rights, and it only covers water — not land use. It also doesn’t regulate most ditches, doesn’t regulate groundwater or shallow subsurface flows, and doesn’t change policy on irrigation or water transfers.

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