Recently the EPA has proposed to redefine what could be considered a federally regulated water body. This was originally issued under an update to the 1972 Clean Water Act in 2015. The rule sought to restore the broad scope of the federal oversight offered in the original law that had been carved away during years of legislative edits. Should the update be accepted, the new definition of “Waters of the United States” would allow federal oversight to be cut even further, dismantling the regulatory authority that was reinstated during Obama’s rule. So, here we’ll explore how the new definition will loosen federal oversight and why it is causing clean water advocates some concerns.

The Old Rule

An article published in the New York Times in May 2015, reported the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers worked in concert to propose the rule. This would effectively protect approximately 60 percent of the water bodies in America. This rule sought to empower the federal government agencies to limit pollution in a broader range of smaller water bodies including streams, wetlands, and headwaters.

The reasoning behind this regulation was discussed by Former President Obama in a statement. He stated that one in three Americans get drinking water from streams that lack clear protection, concluding that “too many of our waters are left vulnerable to pollution.”

Although it received criticism when it was proposed from conservative lawmakers who believed it was federal overreach, many environmentalist groups gave it high praise. While it did not restore the full Clean Water Act scope, it was considered a strong start to keep American water bodies properly regulated and clean.

The Proposed Changes

The EPA did not repeal the rule. Instead, it proposed that the government redefine what is covered under the definition. The EPA published an overview of the proposed revisions on their website, including more flexibility to determine the best way to manage waters. The EPA stated that suggestions were taken from stakeholders, local governments, tribes, and states.

In simple terms, it means that the framework to regulate bodies of water including stormwater control, converted cropland and groundwork will no longer be under federal oversight. Instead, they would be controlled by other agencies including local and state governments or even the very corporations who own and pollute the water bodies in the first place.

How Will This Impact NE Water Systems?

The section of this ruling that is most likely to affect Nebraska water systems is related to the deregulation of groundwater. The groundwater is a major source of drinking water here and deregulating it may lead to greater pollution that could find its way into our homes.

Additionally, the deregulation of ditches could create more pollution in the rivers, streams, and lakes of Nebraska. Polluted field runoff presents a serious problem for water systems due to the high levels of toxic herbicides and pesticides, particularly in rural agricultural communities.

If you have concerns about water quality issues affecting your drinking water, be sure to speak to a water treatment specialist. An experienced professional can not only assess your water for levels of contaminants, but also guide you through the treatment options best suited to your specific water quality issues.

By EcoWater Systems.
EcoWater Systems of Nebraska is the largest water treatment company in the state and is a member of Water Quality Association.