Clean Water Rule clarifies protections for streams and wetlands

wetland
Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers announced the finalization of the Clean Water Rule, which clarifies protections for headwater streams and wetlands under the Clean Water Act. These waterways help reduce flooding, supply drinking water, filter pollution and provide critical habitat for fish and wildlife in downstream waters.

The Council and many of our allies have worked together to build support and advocate for, advance and achieve a these standards for years. This fall, we submitted comments in support of the proposed standards during the public comment period, as did hundreds of Council members and advocates.

“The Clean Water Rule confirms protections for some of our country’s most important and often overlooked waters under the Clean Water Act, one of our best tools for restoring polluted waters and preventing new pollution,” said Water Program Director Susan Heathcote. “U.S. Supreme Court rulings in recent years had created confusion about which streams and wetlands are protected under the law. The Clean Water Rule clears up that confusion.”

The final standard better defines – not broadens – protections under the Clean Water Act. It also clarifies which waters do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act, including streams that do not contribute flow to downstream waters, irrigation ditches, waste treatment lagoons, agricultural stormwater runoff and groundwater. It does not create new permitting requirements for agriculture, nor does it change existing 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.

“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.”

Passed by Congress in 1972, the Federal Clean Water Act was created to “restore and maintain the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation’s waters by preventing point and nonpoint pollution sources, providing assistance to publicly owned treatment works for the improvement of wastewater treatment, and maintaining the integrity of wetlands.”

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