Clean Water Rule Unraveled

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) officially proposed today to rescind the 2015 Clean Water Rule, established under President Obama in 2015. This action begins a process of unraveling years of work to protect some of the most critical streams and wetlands in our country. The agency is giving Americans only 30 days to weigh in on a rule that took years to craft.

The Clean Water Rule was a scientifically sound set of regulations that made clear America’s headwater streams would be protected for water quality under the federal Clean Water Act. The rule also would have reaffirmed exemptions in existing law for landowners and agricultural operations. It was strongly supported by the vast majority of Americans who commented on it during its multi-year development process..

In contrast, today’s action to rescind the rule jeopardizes 60 percent of stream miles in the U.S., those small tributaries (sometimes ephemeral) to larger rivers which provide important habitat for fish and wildlife and deliver clean water to some of our most treasured fishing grounds.


But fishing isn’t the only thing at stake. This move impacts the sources of drinking water for 117 million people. That’s one in three Americans whose drinking water originates in a stream that may no longer be protected.

Our access to clean water in this country is one of the things that sets us apart from many nations in the world. And it is up to us to protect the places that supply high quality water.

There’s no doubt the Clean Water Rule has created much division. Trout Unlimited has seen that first-hand in working with many of our partners in agriculture. We understand and agree with the importance of getting this rule right, and support the exemptions granted to the ag community.


But as an organization that works daily to fix polluted streams and rivers — and the fisheries such pollution has degraded or ruined — we know too well how hard and expensive it is to fix something rather than protect it in the first place.

“Clean water is not a political issue,” said Chris Wood, President and CEO of Trout Unlimited. “It is a basic right of every American. Water runs downhill and gravity works cheap, and never takes a day off. We all live downstream. To be effective, the Clean Water Act must be able to control pollution at its source, upstream in the headwaters and wetlands that flow downstream through communities to our major lakes, rivers, and bays. EPA’s action places the health of 60 percent of the stream miles in the U.S. at risk. Trout Unlimited intends to work with our hundreds of thousands of members and supporters to reverse course on this misguided direction.”

The Clean Water Rule is a foundational American law, one meant to protect the health of our nation’s citizens. It also helps ensure that our remaining cold water habitat can provide good habitat and fishing opportunity. Time is short: Let’s get to work.


By Shauna Stephenson. Shauna Stephenson has been a writer, photographer, communicator and conservationist for nearly two decades, the past decade being spent at Trout Unlimited, working on projects…