The wetlands and tributaries which supply major waterways also must be protected, the federal Environmental Protection Agency ruled last month when it expanded the Clean Water Act to regulate upstream pollution.
This expansion the landmark 1972 environmental law -- which has joint backing from the Army Corps of Engineers -- was celebrated in Seattle Thursday by a handful of environmental advocacy groups including WASHPIRG and Environment Washington. They joined EPA Region 10 Administrator Dennis McLerran at the Fremont Brewing Company to talk about the importance of clean water for businesses such as micro-breweries and agriculture.
“As we face more and more water challenges, not the least of which is increased water stress from a changing climate, protecting our sources of water upstream is really crucial," McLerran said. "It's critical if we want to have clean water to drink, it’s critical if we want to have food to eat and it’s great to have it for good beer to coif as well.”
He also mentioned the importance of clean water for fish such as salmon which are protected under the Endangered Species Act.
But McLerran says the ruling, which has strong backing from the Obama Administration, is still vulnerable from measures pending in Congress.
"We do have a number of folks who are lobbying Congress to either make amendments to the Clean Water Act or to de-fund budgets that are crucial to implementing the Clean Water Rule. So those battles are ongoing," he said.
The EPA needs additional funding to enforce the new rule, for example by requiring special land-use permits from developers if they are working near streams that are newly protected.
McLerran said just this week, amendments have been placed on the EPA’s budget that would prevent implementation of the Clean Water Rule. Opposition comes from some developers and other businesses such as fertilizer companies and energy producers who say it will drive up costs.
That’s why you can expect to see canvassers from WASHPIRG and Environment Washington out in full force this summer. They’re aiming to show Congress there is widespread support for clean water and for keeping the new rule intact.