THE CLEAN WATER ACT was passed in the 1970s after it became evident that the states were failing miserably in their efforts to protect water quality. (Notably, Ohio’s heavily polluted Cuyahoga River caught fire 13 times between 1868 and 1969, causing millions of dollars in damage to bridges and other infrastructure.) The legislation authorized the EPA to regulate pollution discharges into “navigable waters” — that is, waters that can be or are currently used in commerce, collectively known as the “Waters of the United States.”https://undark.org/article/clean-water-rule-epa-pruitt/
At the time, the ecological significance of non-navigable waters wasn’t as apparent, but scientists have learned a great deal in the intervening decades. Gillian Davies, an ecological scientist at BSC Group, an engineering and environmental consulting firm in Boston, and until recently the president of the Society of Wetland Scientists, said researchers have since learned that intermittent streams, wetlands, and larger waterbodies connect in many ways, including sometimes sharing hydrological connections underground. Carbon, nutrients, microbes, and pollution often move into navigable waters from non-navigable waters nearby. Davies likened wetland tributaries to capillaries in the body. If you introduce a pollutant into a capillary it can reach a vein and affect organ functioning. And just like kidneys, she explained, wetlands filter toxins, and they also store excess water and release it in dry weather.
A stream's only as healthy as its headwaters; that the current administration would ignore facts in support of policy which repeals protections for headwater streams and wetlands should surprise no one. TU and NGO's along with a pile of professional scientific organizations have been coordinating a response (https://fisheries.org/2017/07/cass-statement-wotus/).
If interested, you can provide comments to the administration at https://www.regulations.gov/comment?D=E ... -0203-0001 until August 28th.