On Wednesday, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued — after many years of debate, analysis, court rulings and new science — final rules on what constitutes “waters of the United States” that are eligible for protection under the national Clean Water Act. The new rules are designed to help
“restore and maintain the chemical, physical or biological integrity of traditional navigable waters, interstate waters and the territorial seas”
according to the EPA’s announcement. The Clean Water Act is the foundational national law protecting water quality.
The new rules are long overdue — reflecting the complicated nature of watersheds, hydrology and the politics of water. Earlier versions of these rules were long opposed and delayed (as no doubt, these will be) by political interests seeking to limit the authority of the EPA over industrial and agricultural activities that had downstream impacts on water quality. The new rules define three groups of waters: those waters covered by the Clean Water Act, those that are excluded and a middle category of waters that will still be evaluated over time on a case-by-case basis. And these rules are definitional only: the next step is for the EPA to develop and implement regulations on specific efforts to cut water pollution.
Source: Peter Gleick, Pacific Institute, Huffington Post ‘The Blog’, May 27, 2015