This is a news release from United States Department of Agriculture
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 to clearly protect the streams and wetlands that form the foundation of the nation's water resources, from pollution and degradation.
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. A Clean Water Act permit is only needed if water is going to be polluted or destroyed.
America depends on clean water and approximately 117 million Americans – one in three people – get drinking water from streams that lacked clear protection before the Clean Water Rule. The health of our rivers, lakes, bays, and coastal waters are impacted by the streams and wetlands where they begin. Clean and reliable water is an economic driver for manufacturing, farming, tourism, recreation, and energy production.
Protection for many of the nation's streams and wetlands has been confusing, complex, and time-consuming as the result of Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. Members of Congress, state and local officials, industry, agriculture, environmental groups, scientists, and the public have been seeking clarity on the protection rules under the Clean Water Act. EPA and the Army are taking this action to provide more clarity.
In developing the rule, the agencies held more than 400 meetings with stakeholders across the country, reviewed over one million public comments and listened carefully to perspectives from all sides. EPA and the Army also utilized the latest published scientific studies showing that small streams and wetlands play an integral role in the health of larger downstream bodies of water.
Climate change makes protection of water resources even more essential. Streams and wetlands provide many benefits to communities by trapping floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, filtering pollution and providing habitat for fish and wildlife. Impacts from climate change like drought, sea level rise, stronger storms and warmer temperatures threaten the quantity and quality of America's water. Protecting streams and wetlands will improve our nation's resilience to climate change.