Drinking Water and WOTUS

MYTH: The EPA is attempting to roll back the Clean Water Act, eliminating key protections for water quality and putting our drinking water at risk.

FACT: The EPA is revising a definition within the Clean Water Act, called the Waters of the United States (WOTUS) Rule, which was expanded by the Obama Administration in 2015 but never fully went into effect because it was immediately blocked by the courts. Because the rule never went into effect, water quality will not be harmed.

  • In August 2015, a federal district court in North Dakota blocked implementation of the WOTUS rule, and in October of 2015, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit issued a nationwide stay of the rule. WOTUS was never fully implemented, so water quality will not be harmed.

MYTH: Revising Waters of the United States means rolling back the Clean Water Act

FACT: The Clean Water Act is a law, which would require Congressional action to change. Waters of the United States is a regulation rewritten by the EPA in 2015 but never implemented because it was blocked by the courts.

  • The Clean Water Act was passed by Congress and signed into law 1972. WOTUS is a rule originally written in 1986 and revised in 1988 to clarify which waters are federally regulated under the CWA, and which waters are regulated by the states. WOTUS originally focused on waters that spanned multiple states, but for years the rule created confusion over what waters the EPA could regulate. In 2015, the Obama Administration greatly expanded the definition of WOTUS, a move which was quickly halted by the courts.

MYTH: If WOTUS is revised, it will gut the Clean Water Act and the drinking water of 117 million Americans will be harmed.

FACT: The quality of the Nation’s drinking water is stringently protected by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act.

  • The Safe Drinking Water Act seeks to protect public health by regulating the nation’s public drinking water supply, including multiple barriers against pollution, including treatment, distribution system integrity, public information, and source protection.
  • EPA sets stringent national health-based standards for drinking water to protect against both naturally-occurring and man-made contaminants. No WOTUS rule would weaken these protective requirements.
  • Under the Safe Drinking Water Act, the States conduct source assessments to gather information needed to protect sources of drinking water, i.e., rivers, lakes, reservoirs, springs, and ground water wells, and the States, local governments, and water utilities, work together to protect source waters. WOTUS does not limit the ability of state and local entities from protecting source waters.