7 Reasons to Protect America’s Waters

This river otter pup was seen diving in Yellowstone National Park's Trout Lake. Photo Photo donated by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Cara Litberg.
This river otter pup was seen diving in Yellowstone National Park’s Trout Lake. Photo Photo donated by National Wildlife Photo Contest entrant Cara Litberg.
The Administration has published a proposal to restore Clean Water Act protections to America’s most vulnerable streams and wetlands. Unfortunately, this proposal is already coming under attack from the mining industry and others unwilling to take responsibility for polluting and destroying our waters for their personal gain. Here are seven reasons Americans should support the proposed rule to protect our waters.

Headwater streams

Even big rivers start small. Headwater streams are important for fish, amphibians and invertebrates and affect water quality downstream. They supply most of the water in rivers and were protected by the Clean Water Act for decades. Unfortunately two convoluted Supreme Court decisions, actions of the previous administration and inaction by Congress have left these critically important waterways in a legal limbo and at increased risk for over a decade.

A stream in Mount Rainier National Park. Photo: NPS/Crow Vecchio
A stream in Mount Rainier National Park. Photo by Crow Vecchio/U.S. NPS.

Intermittent streams

An intermittent stream is a stream that occasionally runs dry. In the Western half of the country, the majority of streams and creeks meet this description. For example, over 80% of streams in New Mexico flow intermittently. But creeks and streams that are no longer clearly protected by the Clean Water Act feed into drinking water supplies for one-third of all Americans.

This intermittent Texas stream flows into Inks Lake, one of Austin's water supply reservoirs. Photo: Lacey McCormick
This intermittent stream flows directly into Austin’s water supply system. Photo by Lacey McCormick.


For the past decade, an estimated 20 million acres of wetlands have been left unprotected following the problematic Supreme Court rulings. In the five years immediately following the rulings, the rate of wetlands loss accelerated by 140 percent. The EPA’s proposed  rule would restore protections for millions of acres of wetlands that will in turn protect Americans from floods, improve water quality, and provide habitat for fish and wildlife.

Redhead hen and ducklings in a wetland. Photo: Neil Mishler/UFSWS.
Redhead hen with ducklings in a wetland. Photo by Neil Mishler U.S. FWS.

Way of Life

Millions of jobs and billions of dollars in economic activity are at stake. Roughly half of all Americans participate in outdoor sports and total spending on these activities comes close to $650 billion annually, $200 billion from hunting and angling alone.

Girl tubing on Blanco River. Photo: Texas Parks and Wildlife Department
Tubing on the Blanco River. Photo by Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.


The new rule has generous exemptions for all normal farming and ranching activities, including plowing, seeding, harvesting, and the construction of stock ponds and  irrigation ditches. A number of farm organizations and farmers and ranchers have spoken out in favor of the rule. Unfortunately the Farm Bureau  has repeatedly mischaracterized this proposed rule’s impacts on the agricultural community.

USDA farmers 35
The rule will protect farmers as it includes generous exemptions for agricultural activities. Photo by Tim McCabe/USDA.

Still Needing Protection

The proposal stops short of  restoring Clean Water Act protections for many natural wetlands that that are not adjacent to rivers and streams, such as prairie potholes, Carolina bays, and playa lakes. These vital habitats were once protected under the Clean Water Act and, as the science demonstrates, they should be again.

Unfortunately wetlands  like this Carolina Bay will not be protected. Photo: Charles Shoffner
Unfortunately the proposed rule does not protect wetlands like this Carolina Bay. Photo by Charles Shoffner.

Future Generations

To make sure that America’s waters and wildlife populations remain healthy and resilient for future generations, the Environmental Protection Agency and the Army Corps of Engineers need to finalize this proposed rule and clearly define which water bodies are “waters of the United States” and therefore protected by the Clean Water Act.

Take ActionMake sure America’s streams, creeks and wetlands are protected by the Clean Water Act once again!