Exploring legislative updates including the proposed revisions to WOTUS
It has been a big month for water legislation. New revisions have been proposed for the “waters of the U.S.” (WOTUS) definition. The proposal would replace the 2015 Obama-era rule, which expanded the types of waterbodies that are subject to federal jurisdiction under the Clean Water Act (CWA), and limit WOTUS to encompass “traditional navigable waters, including the territorial seas; tributaries that contribute perennial or intermittent flow to such waters; certain ditches; certain lakes and ponds; impoundments of otherwise jurisdictional waters; and wetlands adjacent to other jurisdictional waters,” according to the proposal. On page 5, Kurt Spitzer, a consultant on water policy to local government, goes into more detail on the proposal.
Regularly, I’m confronted with news about dangers to our drinking water and threatened wildlife in or near our waterways-large and small-and I’m sure you are too. The National Climate Assessment released at the end of 2018 explained how more intense runoff is one factor contributing to more polluted waterways. With so many threats to the health of our waterways, perhaps a tighter WOTUS definition could help prevent additional pollution, not allow it.
Many water professionals-from 91 organizations, to be exact-have rallied together to improve water infrastructure in the U.S. by signing a letter to Congress, urging funding. Our water is threatened twofold, and new infrastructure can protect it. Adequate storm water infrastructure is another key aspect to protecting our waterways down the line.
Finally, in January, President Donald J. Trump signed the Water Infrastructure Improvement Act. According to the National Association of Clean Water Agencies, the legislation codifies U.S. EPA’s Integrated Planning approach into law as part of the CWA. It allows more flexibility for storm water management in communities and supports the use of green infrastructure.
In other words, improvement is an option. I urge you to reach out to your legislators and educate them on the needs and status of our water to ultimately protect it.