A watershed moment for U.S. water quality

Aug. 17, 2020
This vernal pool in Ohio is an example of a non-floodplain wetland that is not protected under the new federal rule. These waterbodies are interconnected in many ways with stream and river networks. Photo courtesy of Mažeika Sullivan

A new federal rule that determines how the Clean Water Act is implemented leaves millions of miles of streams and acres of wetlands unprotected based on selective interpretation of case law and a distortion of scientific evidence, researchers say in a new publication.

In a Policy Forum article published in the Aug. 14 issue of Science, the researchers assert that the Navigable Waters Protection Rule undermines the spirit – if not the letter – of the Clean Water Act by protecting only waters that have a permanent hydrologic surface connection to rivers, lakes and other large “navigable” bodies of water. Also omitted from consideration is maintaining the integrity of the biological and chemical quality of the nation’s waters, protections that are explicitly called for in the Clean Water Act.

“It’s so important to say, right out of the gates, that the new rule does not protect water in the way that the Clean Water Act was intended to protect water,” said lead author Mažeika Sullivan, director of the Schiermeier Olentangy River Wetland Research Park at The Ohio State University.  Read more about the new rule and what it means for now-unprotected waters in the Ohio State News release by Emily Caldwell.