The EPA Just Protected Drinking Water For Millions Of Americans

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) will have an easier time regulating water pollution under a new rule released May 27, 2015.

The Waters of the United States rule, developed by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers, offers protection to two million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands that, until now, were not clearly designated under the Clean Water Act. The rule clarifies what tributaries and wetlands are part of the overall water system and will decrease confusion and expense, the EPA and Army Corps said.

The confusion about what waters can be regulated stems from 2001, when the Supreme Court found that the EPA did not have jurisdiction to regulate isolated wetlands. That decision created confusion about how and where pollution can enter the water system — and what regulators can do about it.

“We’ve had to operate under a lot of confusion,” Assistant Secretary for the Army (Civil Works) Jo-Ellen Darcy said on a call. “Our rule will make it clear which waters are covered and which waters aren’t.”

One out of every three Americans gets drinking water from sources connected to water that, until now, did not have clear protection. In addition, determining which waters were covered has been costly and time-consuming. The new rule ultimately seeks to protect downstream water sources, using current scientific practices to determine what bodies of water are interconnected.

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