Trump Administration’s rollback to the Clean Water Rule puts drinking water at risk

, By Ezra Meyer

The Trump Administration announced it is rolling back protections in the Clean Water Rule advanced by the Obama Administration.

Drinking water crises in parts of Wisconsin, such as in the City of Milwaukee and in Kewaunee County, and across the country, in places like Flint, Michigan, and Toledo, Ohio, are stark reminders that now is not the time to move backwards on water quality protections for our drinking water. We all need clean drinking water, whether we get ours from surface waters like the Great Lakes or from groundwater aquifers like so many in Wisconsin outside the Great Lakes basin. As we all know, all of our precious water resources are intimately connected.

Trump’s U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) roll back will remove protections for wetlands and small headwater streams. But we cannot allow pollution from sources like mining, manufacturing, and large livestock farms into small waterways without impacting all of the waters we depend on. Wetlands flow into streams, which flow into small rivers, into bigger rivers, into lakes, including our Great Lakes, and ultimately to the oceans. We need to protect the integrity of all of the parts of our hydrologic system.

Wetlands are critical resources for protecting the quality of our water, and Clean Wisconsin has been a strong advocate for wetland protections in the Capitol and the courts. Acting like sponges, wetlands help to filter pollutants in runoff when it rains, ensuring the water that ends up in our lakes, rivers, and streams is clean. Despite this, state wetland protections in Wisconsin were undone in the last legislative session, threatening these important waterbodies.

Now, the Trump Administration’s rollback of federal wetland protections could lead to even fewer wetlands in Wisconsin, putting our water at further risk of pollution.

The government at all levels needs to step up its efforts to protect our drinking water. At the state level, Gov. Evers is doing just that, having declared 2019 the Year of Clean Drinking Water. We cannot afford the federal government scaling back the rules for big polluters. We need federal clean water rules that strengthen, not weaken, protections for clean, safe drinking water, as well as important habitats for fish and wildlife and beautiful natural areas we all enjoy.