On Monday, June 18, millions of streams and wetlands across the country lost protections as Trump’s Navigable Waters Protection Rule officially went into effect. This new rule dramatically decreases the waterways protected under the Clean Water Act. Waterbodies and waterways such as wetlands, streams, and groundwater will no longer be protected from pollution.

In response, Earthjustice filed challenges on behalf of the Pascua Yaqui Tribe of Arizona, Bad River Band of Lake Superior Chippewa, the Quinault Indian Nation of Washington state, the Fond du Lac Band of Lake Superior Chippewa of Minnesota, the Menominee Indian Tribe of Wisconsin, the Tohono O’odham Tribe of Arizona, Mi Familia Vota, Puget Soundkeeper Alliance, Idaho Conservation League, and the Sierra Club. 

“Millions of Americans depend on water now under threat from this administration’s commitment to pro-polluter agendas and cronyism, for drinking, for subsistence, for recreation, and for their livelihoods,” said Janette Brimmer, Earthjustice attorney. “Earthjustice, our clients, and partners will continue to fight for the full protection of all our nation’s waters.” 

Trump’s rule replaces the 2015 Clean Water Rule, which means currently protected waterways will be opened up to pollution and destructive development. In 2019 and 2020, the Trump administration rescinded and replaced the 2015 rule, which protected many waters under the Clean Water Act. Trump’s new rule, dubbed the “Dirty Water Rule” by clean water advocates, cuts many water bodies out of the protections by redefining them as not “waters of the U.S.” When waters have no Clean Water Act protections, industries can dump uncontrolled discharges of toxic, radiologic, and pathogenic pollution, harming drinking water supplies, recreational waters, wildlife, animals, and people.

To demonstrate the significant impacts from the Trump Dirty Water Rule, Earthjustice mapped five different watersheds as illustrations of what is at risk.  Each watershed is important in its own way.  Waters losing protection will not only devastate specific waterways within a watershed, but also waterways that connect downstream and the people and communities who rely on them. 

“The widespread damage the Dirty Water Rule is poised to cause is clear evidence that the Trump administration is disinterested in protecting our water from polluting corporations,” said the coalition of groups suing Trump’s Environmental Protection Agency. “Despite much improvement over the years, more than half of the country’s streams and rivers remain unfit for swimming, drinking, or fishing. We must rescind and replace Trump’s Dirty Water Rule.”

The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) own science advisors have said Trump’s rule threatens to weaken protection of the nation’s waters by disregarding the established connectivity of groundwaters. Trump’s Dirty Water Rule fails to protect ephemeral streams and wetlands that connect to navigable waters below the surface. Science advisors to Trump’s EPA emphasized that these changes are proposed without a supportable scientific basis, while potentially introducing substantial new risks to human and environmental health.


Jacqueline Koch is founder of Boost Collective, a Seattle-based communications firm.


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