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Advocates: Don’t Muddy the Water

PHOTO: The Clean Water Act was passed 42 years ago to protect surface water. Changes have been proposed that have become controversial. Photo credit: Jerry Oster
PHOTO: The Clean Water Act was passed 42 years ago to protect surface water. Changes have been proposed that have become controversial. Photo credit: Jerry Oster
October 17, 2014

YANKTON, S.D. - The Clean Water Act celebrates its 42nd anniversary this weekend. It was passed in 1972 to protect the chemical, physical and biological integrity of the nation's surface water. Trisha Jackson, a research geologist from South Dakota State University in Brookings, says clean water is an immense natural resource.

"It's vital to the functioning of our country because it protects all the waters that spill into our navigable streams," says Brookings. "For every dollar we spend protecting the waters of the United States, it gives us back $7 to $12 in our economy, so it's vital to our economy and the health of our citizens."

Jackson says continued protection of that natural resource will take compromises from all sides.

The Environmental Protection Agency released a clarification of the Clean Water Act last spring. Since then, many industry groups have been vocal in their opposition to those changes. Jackson says those changes do not give the EPA any more authority.

"The EPA has been very clear this does not expand their jurisdiction over anything they were doing before," says Jackson. "Anything farmers are doing now, this isn't going to be a new jurisdiction that covers those uses."

Jackson says farms and businesses can grow, and water can be protected, but it takes people working together to do that.

"It's the duty of citizens that are going to be impacted by this rule to make sure you are involved in the democratic process," Jackson says. "If you have concerns about it, make sure you are talking to your Senator and other policy makers so they can better understand what concerns you have, because the rule is not final yet; we're still in the process of clarifying things."

Comments on the Waters of the U.S. proposal is being taken through mid-November.

Jerry Oster, Public News Service - SD