Empowering Communities, Advocating Solutions

117 Million Americans: Your Drinking Water is at Risk

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More than 40 years ago, Congress made a promise to protect and improve our nation’s waters for future generations by passing the Clean Water Act (CWA). However, since 2001, Supreme Court decisions and federal guidance changes have weakened the CWA by limiting federal protections over wetlands and small streams. As a result, many wetlands and small streams are being filled, polluted, or destroyed with no legal consequence. Rollbacks to the CWA have:

  • Threatened drinking water supplies of more than 117 million Americans;
  • Removed protections for at least 20 million acres of wetlands across the nation;
  • Put 59% of all stream miles in the continental United States at risk; and
  • Put a multi-billion dollar economy founded on clean water at risk. Anglers alone generated nearly $115 billion in economic activity in 2011, breathing life into rural communities and supporting more than one million jobs.

After more than a decade of advocacy by CCE and our clean water partners throughout the nation, the US Environmental Protection Agency and U.S. Army Corp of Engineers recently proposed a new clean water rule that would restore CWA protections to wetlands and small streams.   Finalizing the proposed rule is critical to protecting clean water in New York, Connecticut, and the nation.

While protecting clean water may seem like a no-brainer, powerful special interests are spreading misinformation and working to defeat this commonsense measure.  Last week, my CCE colleague Sarah Eckel and I traveled to Washington, D.C., to meet with members of the New York Congressional delegation, and set the record straight on the EPA’s clean water rule.  We made it clear that New York needs this rule because without it, the following is at risk:

  • The drinking water of 11 million New Yorkers;
  • 55% of New York’s streams;
  • 90% of Great Lakes wetlands; and
  • A $2.6 billion fishing industry.

The streams and wetlands protected by the proposed rule are critical to the health of our most treasured water bodies such as the Great Lakes, Finger Lakes, Long Island Sound, Delaware River, Susquehanna River, and the Hudson River.  Countless small streams and wetlands provide the freshwater that flows into these regional economic engines and emblems of  our cherished ways of life.  If we do not protect this incredible network of waters, we cannot hope to restore to health these larger lakes, rivers, and bays.

While we brought this message to our elected officials in Washington, it is critical that the public also speak up for clean water.  Please take action (it takes less than a minute!) and send a comment in support of the clean water rule!

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