NACWA provided its initial thoughts, in a June 19 letter to EPA, regarding the Agency’s new effort to redefine “Waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The Trump Administration is taking a two-step approach to the WOTUS issue, working on separate tracks to first rescind the Obama Administration’s Clean Water Rule, finalized in 2015, and then to propose and finalize a new WOTUS definition. While the Trump Administration has not yet initiated a formal comment period on a new rule, it did seek input from key stakeholders to inform its ongoing work to draft a proposal. Once a proposed rule is issued, a formal public comment period will begin.
NACWA’s initial comments on the new definition rule stressed the importance of maintaining the existing exclusions that have been in place—either in regulation or in practice—for years, and in some cases, decades. This includes the waste treatment system exemption, in place since the 1970s, and the exclusions for municipal stormwater systems, water reuse facilities and groundwater, which were all specifically added to the regulations by the Clean Water Rule.
NACWA also stressed that any significant narrowing of WOTUS jurisdiction could increase the burden for downstream dischargers, like NACWA’s members, where unregulated, upstream discharges to tributaries deemed no longer jurisdictional under the federal program contribute to the pollution load of the receiving water. NACWA emphasized that strong federal protection is essential to providing safe and sustainable drinking water supplies into the future, and that substantial changes to WOTUS jurisdiction could threaten this protection. NACWA will remain engaged with the Agency as work continues on the new definition rule, which could be proposed later this year. For more information, contact Chris Hornback, NACWA Chief Technical Officer.