Waters of the United States

Waters of the United States

What the Rule Does
  • Reduces confusion about Clean Water Act protection

    Determining when the Clean Water Act protected streams and wetlands became confusing and complex following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006.

  • Clarifies types of waters covered under Clean Water Act
    Specifically, the proposed rule clarifies that under the Clean Water Act:
    • • Most seasonal and rain-dependent streams are protected.
    • • Wetlands near rivers and streams are protected.
    • • Other types of waters may have more uncertain connections with downstream water and protection will be evaluated through a case specific analysis of whether the connection is or is not significant. However, to provide more certainty, the proposal requests comment on options protecting similarly situated waters in certain geographic areas or adding to the categories of waters protected without case specific analysis.

    Read the proposed rule.

  • Saves businesses time and money

    The proposed rule will benefit businesses by increasing efficiency in determining coverage of the Clean Water Act.

  • Provides more benefits to public than costs

    The proposed rule would provide an estimated $388 million to $514 million annually of benefits to the public, including reducing flooding, filtering pollution, providing wildlife habitat, supporting hunting and fishing, and recharging groundwater. The public benefits significantly outweigh the costs of about $162 million to $278 million per year for mitigating impacts to streams and wetlands, and taking steps to reduce pollution to waterways.

    Download our cost-benefit analysis.

  • Helps states to protect their waters

    According to a study by the Environmental Law Institute, 36 states have legal limitations on their ability to fully protect waters that are not covered by the Clean Water Act.

    Read the Environmental Law Institute report. Exit

Streams and Wetlands Matter

Pollution in San Pedro River, Arizona

Storm water from construction sites carried oil, grease, and other pollutants into tributaries to the San Pedro River – an internationally recognized river ecosystem supporting diverse wildlife. However, the waters in question only flow for part of the year. EPA has had to discontinue all enforcement cases in this area because it was so time-consuming and costly to prove that the Clean Water Act protects these rivers.

Source: Tana Kappel © The Nature Conservancy.

Pollution in San Pedro River, Arizona

Recreation in Lake Blackshear, Georgia

Challenges in proving jurisdiction hampered enforcement efforts when a large animal feeding operation in Georgia discharged liquid manure to tributaries. Unhealthy levels of viruses and bacteria were found downstream in Lake Blackshear, used for waterskiing and other water recreation.

Source: Georgia Department of Natural Resources, State Parks and Historic Sites.

Lake Blackshear, Georgia
What the Rule Does Not Do
Benefits for Agriculture
Why Do a Rulemaking
Input is Important