Putting people like Pruitt in charge to protect public health from hazardous pollutants shows a dangerous antipathy towards science. What’s worse, the Trump Administration’s proposed 31% cut to the EPA’s budget will further curtail the agency’s ability to research, regulate and educate Americans on the health risks we face.

Margo Oge, Director of the EPA’s Office of Transportation and Air Quality (1994-2012)

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 was the first major U.S. law to address water pollution. Growing public awareness and concern for controlling water pollution led to sweeping amendments in 1972. As amended in 1972, the law became commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers adopted the Clean Water Rule in May 2015 to clear up longstanding confusion over which water bodies the landmark 1972 Clean Water Act protects. The rule more clearly defines what kinds of waters get guaranteed coverage and which ones are exempt.

The water bodies at the center of the Clean Water Rule serve critical functions. Notably, more than 117 million Americans receive drinking water from public systems that draw supply from headwater, seasonal, or rain-dependent streams. Wetlands cover roughly 110 million acres in the continental U.S., which filter pollution from contaminated runoff and replenish groundwater. An acre of wetlands can also store upwards of a million gallons of flood water, and wetlands provide essential fish and wildlife habitat, supporting a robust outdoor recreation economy.

 

How Would the Trump Administration Weaken Protections?

In February 2017, President Trump signed an executive order starting a process to repeal the Clean Water Rule and replace it with a set of rules that would substantially weaken the regulations that the Reagan administration adopted.

Here’s some of what could be at risk if the rule is thrown out:

A repeal of the Clean Water Rule could threaten the drinking water of 117 million Americans, according to a recent nationwide analysis by the Environmental Working Group.

Millions of acres of wetlands would no longer be under the protection of the Clean Water Act. Wetlands are among the most productive ecosystems on Earth. One-third of the country’s threatened and endangered species live only in wetlands, according to the EPA.

Water pollutants can affect crop production and the health of seafood and livestock. Troublingly, persistent pollutants — those that remain active for a long time, like heavy metals and pesticides — accumulate as they move up the food chain.

Recreational industries, like hunting, water sports and sport fishing, could be especially hard-hit by a Clean Water Rule repeal.