Clarity Comes to the Clean Water Act

We use gallons of it every day and can’t live without it. Clear, clean, fresh water. Many of us depend on usable surface water for drinking, irrigation, cleaning, or livestock. And we have the Clean Water Act to thank.

The Clean Water Act used to apply to all surface water in the United States until two decisions by the Supreme Court changed that. Confusion regarding the law’s enforcement has reigned ever since those court decisions in 2001 and 2006.

They left more than half of America’s streams and millions of wetland acres vulnerable to pollution. In March, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed an administrative rule to clarify the situation.

The new rule helps family farmers, ranchers, and small towns more easily predict what enforcement of the Clean Water Act will look like. It protects the quality of the nation’s surface waters and allows economically vital activities like hunting, fishing, birding, farming, and ranching to thrive and to contribute to the quality of life we know and love in rural places.

Charlie Johnson, who owns and operates a 2,000 acre organic farm near Madison, South Dakota, said it best. “Water is the basis of life, and it is at the heart of everything we do here on our farm. The clarity this rule will provide will be important as we work to improve soil health, increase water retention, and reduce runoff through buffer strips, cover crops, and other sustainable farming practices.”

We hope the new rule will encourage more farmers and ranchers to participate in conservation programs.