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🗳️ "What You Need To Know About WOTUS"

Water Nerds

Photo by Samuel Branch / Unsplash

Table of Contents

Host: Analies Ross-Dyjak | Head of Policy & Perspectives | Hydroviv
Category: 🗳️ Policy

Podcast’s Essential Bites:

[1:03] “In 2015, the Obama era put out the Clean Water Rule, which was a more narrowed scope of […] how we define water in the US. The Trump administration repealed and then replaced that rule with something new. And […] now the Biden administration is proposing to reverse the Trump era rule. So we basically have a lot of flip flopping going on. It's […] important just to understand what these changes mean, for you and your drinking water.”

[2:11] “In general, this rule proposes what the government is able to regulate and monitor. These waters have been considered more traditional surface waters. And another term that you might hear […] about this topic is navigable waters. And that is quite literally a body of water that you can put a boat into. And so this is […] the old traditional way of defining waters. […] The broader the scope, the more protections are being offered to important water resources.”

[3:23] “When a body of water is designated as a water of the United States (WOTUS), it becomes protected from certain activities like construction or dredging or filling. So it becomes […] this protective entity that you'll have to either get permits for or just they're kind of off limits.”

[3:59] “In 2006 [a] famous Supreme Court case […] got the ball rolling with this definition. A Michigan man tried to fill in three wetlands in order to build a shopping mall. And so this really sparked the debate, because the Michigan Department of Environmental Protection was saying, this is illegal, because these waters should be protected under the Clean Water Act. And the individual was saying, no, it's not a traditional water of the United States, and therefore I can build my shopping mall. And so this made its way all the way up to the Supreme Court. And ultimately, he was allowed to build this shopping mall. But it really did spark that debate because one of the justices came up with the significant nexus theory. Which is that water that flows into a different body of water should be protected.”

[5:09] “The 2015 Obama clean water rule is [based on] interconnectedness of these important bodies of water like wetlands and streams. So the 2015 rule included a broader scope than just those traditional navigable waters to include tributaries, adjacent waters, so waters that are next to wetlands that may feed into the wetlands and vice versa, wetlands, converted crop lands and farm ditches among all of the other traditional navigable waters. And so […] this was the most broad scope that we've had of protected waters ever.”

[5:59] “The Trump administration then repealed that rule, and replaced it with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule, which ultimately eliminated the protections on certain wetlands and seasonal tributaries and seasonal streams and just narrowed the scope. So those important resources were no longer being protected by EPA.”

[6:27] “This rule was only in place for a little over a year and EPA determined that this Trump error rule actually resulted in a 25% point reduction in determinations of waters that would have historically been designated and would have been protected. So that's a very significant amount of water. […] EPA also determined later that these changes, most significantly impacted, arid places, and especially Arizona and New Mexico. And so there are 1,500 streams in both of these states combined […] [which] were excluded from these protections. And so we're obviously in drought-like conditions in the West and so not having those crucial waters protected is just kind […] ridiculous.”

[8:00] “The Trump era rule is still in place right now, but Biden is planning to overturn that and implement something that's actually much more broad in scope than the 2015 Obama era definition of waters of the United States. […] Having protected streams and protected wetlands ultimately improves source water for drinking water. So whether you're in a private well, or you're on the city supply, what goes on in those streams, wetlands, tributaries, is crucial for the safety of drinking water across the entire country.”

Rating: 💧💧💧

🎙️ Full Episode: Apple
🕰️ 10 min | 🗓️ 08/04/2021
✅ Time saved: 8 min

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