Renewed protections, ongoing threats to clean water

Tags: clean water, Clean Water Act, Clean Water Rule, drinking water, Great Lakes, Water, wetlands

In the 2000s, weak federal policies along with a pair of US Supreme Court rulings eroded existing Clean Water Act safeguards for many waterways across the country. Recently, the US Environmental Protection Agency and Army Corps of Engineers took an important step towards closing those legal loopholes by releasing a final version of the “Clean Water Rule.”

This landmark rule clarified exactly which water bodies are covered under the Clean Water Act, and in so doing restores protections to 60 percent of the nation’s stream miles and millions of acres of wetlands after more than a decade unprotected. These vital waterways provide drinking water to almost 117 million Americans, including one in seven Michiganders.

In Michigan, clean water is vital to our health, our economy, and our way of life. Michigan alone is home to 36,000 miles of streams and rivers, and more than $2 billion is spent in Michigan each year on fishing alone. Michigan’s burgeoning Blue Economy is dependent on our state’s ample clean water. In fact, one in five jobs in Michigan are water related. In addition to supplying critical drinking water, the waterways given renewed protections under this new rule also provide many benefits to communities by trapping floodwaters, recharging groundwater supplies, filtering pollution, and providing habitat for fish and wildlife.  

Americans overwhelmingly favor increased protections for freshwater resources. More than four in five voters feel that water quality is an important issue, and three in five describe it as a big concern for them personally. Four in five voters favor the new Clean Water Rule; 68 percent of Republicans and 94 percent of Democrats support the rule, crossing partisan lines in support of greater protections for the quality of our drinking water.

The Clean Water Rule should be a springboard for stronger protections for our most precious natural resource. The broad base of support we’ve seen for the EPA and Army Corp of Engineers’ ruling shows that voters understand the importance of protecting our clean water.

There is still work to be done. From invasive species to toxic algae blooms and dead zones, the challenges facing our freshwater and Great lakes are numerous. We can and should build on the momentum created by the rule, to elect clean water champions to office and push for policies that will fully protect our waterways for generations to come.  

Written by Michigan LCV intern Trevor Dolan