The future of the Obama administration’s top achievement for source water policy is not looking hopeful.
The waters of the U.S. rule (“WOTUS”) is an update to Clean Water Act regulations that the U.S. EPA says is necessary because Supreme Court decisions obscure jurisdictional questions under the law.
“Dozens of lawsuits and a nationwide stay halted U.S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers' plans to implement the new standards on the ground,” the report said.
But the election results mean the outlook for WOTUS is getting even worse. Vermont Law School professor Pat Parenteau said, per Greenwire: "I think this rule is ultimately doomed."
What does this mean for the daily operations of water and wastewater utility managers?
It helps to look at what the implications of WOTUS would have been. The American Water Works Association (AWWA) released a document summarizing how the WOTUS update may impact water utilities. The document notes that Clean Water Act implementation “has significant implications for the day-to-day operations and capital infrastructure planning necessary to drinking water, wastewater, stormwater, recycled water, and irrigation water utilities.”
Two ways WOTUS could have impacted the water and wastewater industries include effects on permitting and construction. Here is an excerpt from the AWWA report:
The EPA framed the rule as beneficial to the everyday operations of water utility managers.
“When utilities can withdraw cleaner water, it means less treatment and cleaner drinking water at your tap. The Clean Water Rule provides clear protection for the streams that are used for drinking water by about 117 million people — that’s one in three Americans. Now those streams are clearly protected by the Clean Water Rule,” the EPA says in its materials describing the rule.
Opponents, including congressional Republicans and the agriculture industry, argue the rule constitutes government overreach. An influential U.S. senator has argued that the rule poses a threat to water utilities.
“It’s time to come together to protect farmers, ranchers, water utilities, local governments, and contractors by giving them the clarity and certainty they deserve and stopping EPA and the Corps from eroding traditional exemptions,” said Senate Environment and Public Works Chairman Jim Inhofe, Republican from Oklahoma, in a statement.
Image credit: "Islands, Sacramento River Delta," worldislandinfo.com © 2004, used under an Attribution 2.0 Generic license: https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/