Redefining Clean Water Protection
Posted on: December 14, 2018
A factsheet outlining a December 11th U.S. EPA and Army Corps of Engineers proposal redefining the scope of federally protected waters is available here.

Proposal Narrows the List of Federally Regulated Waters 

When two of the largest newspapers in the USA, the Washington Post and New York Times, simultaneously place front page articles about proposed new water quality regulations, it catches your eye. This must be a major change. Infosuperior provides a take on both of these newspapers stories within this article (scroll down to “Associated Headlines”), but to start, here is a brief overview of proposed, very fundamental and all-encompassing, changes to the way clean water protection works in the USA .

On December 11th, the U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (the Corps) released a draft proposal aimed at refining federal authority to protect water quality.

The proposal references regulations and terms like the *Clean Water Act and **Waters of the United States, but is essentially focused on reducing the variety of waters that fall under federal regulation in the U.S.A. Currently, federally regulated waters include lakes, rivers, small streams, wetlands and groundwater.  The proposal narrows this broader list by removing ponds and pools that only contain water during or after rainfall, groundwater, many ditches including most roadside and farm ditches, stormwater control systems and waste treatment systems.

After removal of those waters set out above, EPA and the Corps set out the net result, stating that “traditional navigable waters, tributaries to those waters, certain ditches, certain lakes and ponds, impoundments of jurisdictional waters, and wetlands adjacent to jurisdictional waters would be federally regulated.” 

EPA and Corps Contend Proposal Lowers Costs and Business Barriers 

EPA and the Corps set out rationale supporting a narrowed list contending that it would “result in significant cost savings, protect the nation’s navigable waters, help sustain economic growth, and reduce barriers to business development.” 

As an example, processes within the agricultural sector could be streamlined. To date, farms near streams and wetlands have been restricted from practicing certain types of planting and plowing. The same is the case for use of pesticides and fertilizers that could run off into waterways. The December 11th proposal would lift these restrictions and EPA permits would no longer be required.

EPA also says that states and tribes already have their own regulations, adding that the proposal will allow such entities more flexibility in determining how best to manage their own land and water resources.

A concise “Factsheet” about the proposal, produced by EPA and the Corps, is available here

Associated Headlines

Publications as diverse as the New York Times, Washington Post and National Public Radio headlined the new proposal in various ways, as follows:


Trump Prepares to Unveil A Vast Reworking of Clean Water Protections


Trump EPA Proposes Major Rollback Of Federal Water Protections


Trump Administration Moves to Slash Federal Protection for Waterways

Sixty Day Public Comment Period

Public comments on the draft proposal will be accepted through the federal register for a period of 60 days. Additionally, EPA and the Corps will host a listening session in Kansas City, KS, on January 23, 2019 and an informational webcast on January 10, 2019. Infosuperior will post information to join the webcast as soon as it is available.


Text of the Draft Proposal


*The Clean Water Act of 1972 established the basic structure for regulating pollutant discharges into waters of the United States.
**The Waters of the United States rule came into effect in 1988 and defines those waters which fall under the Clean Water Act. This list of federally regulated waters was broadened to its current form during the Obama administration.

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