Article courtesy of Elise Shulman/ThinkProgress | June 4, 2015 | The Terramar Project | Shared as educational material
When the Obama administration issued its final Waters of the United States rule last week, it restored protections to about 60 percent of the streams, wetlands and other waterways that supply drinking water for 117 million Americans. At the time, environmentalists lauded the rulemaking is for its expected benefits to municipal water supplies, inland fish and wildlife habitats, and businesses and industries requiring clean water.
Less discussed, however, was the way these new rules could benefit America’s oceans and coastal regions, and the multitude of businesses that depend on them.
The new rule confirms that small streams and wetlands “that are scientifically shown to have the greatest impact on downstream water quality and form the foundation of [the United States’] water resources” are now protected from discrete sources of pollution like sewage and factory effluent pipes under the Clean Water Act, according to the EPA’s summary fact sheet on the rule.
To inform the rulemaking, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers conducted a comprehensive study on the connectivity of streams and wetlands to downstream waters, and concluded that “incremental contributions of individual streams and wetlands are cumulative across entire watersheds.” As the ultimate destination of most watersheds, coastal waters will reap the sum of these incremental water quality protections.