Don't be silent about the EPA Clean Water rollback

Don't be silent about the EPA Clean Water rollback

What happens when you can't trust water from the tap?

In the United States, we have developed public infrastructure capable of delivering clean, drinkable tap water almost everywhere. Unlike packaged water, tap water is economical and sustainable for daily hydration at home or on the go.  But first, it must be clean.

The most effective way to ensure safe drinking water at the tap is to protect drinking water sources from pollution. Implementing strong, clean water protections as written in the Clean Water Act and amended in the 2015 Clean Water Rule is essential to ensuring families have clean water to drink and use every day. It is even a meaningful step toward combating plastic pollution.

Originally established as the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, the Clean Water Act (CWA) is the primary federal law regulating water pollution. At the time CWA was enacted, two-thirds of the country’s lakes, rivers and coastal waters had become unsafe for fishing or swimming. While the CWA has been instrumental in improving health of the nation’s waters and preventing billions of pounds of pollution from impacting water quality, many rivers remain polluted by urban and agricultural runoff and sewer overflows, and almost half of our streams are in poor health. This has severe implications for the drinking water quality we have come to expect in this country.

In May 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers adopted the Clean Water Rule based on sound science in order to settle the conflicting interpretations of water bodies rightly protected under the Act. The science is clear; if the small and seasonal water bodies are not protected from pollution, the larger streams and rivers won’t be protected either. Under the Clean Water Rule, two million miles of streams and 20 million acres of wetlands that provide drinking water would be designated as protected under the Clean Water Act. One-third of Americans get their drinking water from sources connected to these streams and wetlands.

In February, President Donald Trump signed an executive order starting a process to repeal the Clean Water Rule and replace it with a set of rules that would substantially weaken the regulation. The Clean Water Rule was developed with significant public input, including a nearly 7-month long comment period and receipt of more than one million comments, 87 percent of which were supportive of the rule. The EPA has given the public just 21 days to comment on the latest revisions.

Ultimately, the administration’s clean water rollback plan would mean fewer streams, wetlands, and other waters would be protected. It means more pollution to the lakes and streams we rely on for drinking water supply or for fishing and swimming. And the impact doesn’t stop here.

When people have concerns about the safety of tap water, they often turn to bottled water and unintentionally contribute to a whole other problem  plastic pollution. Only about 35 percent of plastic water bottles are recycled in the United States; the other 65 percent ends up as plastic pollution, stressing municipal waste systems, adding to landfills and damaging waterways and oceans. Global surveys show plastic bottles and bottle tops are one of the most common type of plastic packaging washing up on the world’s shorelines. We at Klean Kanteen believe reusable bottles are a favorable, sustainable option — as long as drinking water at the tap is safe and accessible.

With the EPA’s shortened period for public comments on its latest revisions we cannot delay, our voices need to be heard. Let’s make sure to tell the EPA what should be obvious: that clean water is good for business, and it is our government’s job to make sure it is plentiful, accessible and reliable. The comment period for the new definition of the Clean Water Rule closes Dec. 13.