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WOTUS Rollback To Affect Western Streams And Wetlands

Jan 26, 2020

An ephemeral stream during low-flow conditions.
Credit U.S. Geological Survey

The Trump administration’s rollback of an Obama-era Clean Water Act rule will be felt across the arid West. 

The Environmental Protection Agency has redefined which waterways are protected from pollution. The updated policy excludes some wetlands and all ephemeral streams -- which only flow after a heavy rain or intense snowmelt.

Huge swathes of the American southwest are drained by these kinds of streams. Ephemeral streams also serve as tributaries to rivers that millions of people across the region rely on for drinking water and irrigation. 

In Colorado about 70 percent of all streams will be affected by the new rule. In New Mexico and Nevada, it’s upwards of 90 percent. Oil and gas companies, homebuilders and some agriculture groups said the change was necessary. Environmental groups and left-leaning states vowed to fight the rule change when it becomes final.