US waters could be redefined under a new proposal from the Trump Administration’s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). The proposed change to the 'Waters of the United States' definition, which farm and agriculture lobbyists have been calling for since 2015, would see environmental federal protection removed from certain wetlands and isolated streams. Environmentalists say it could lead to the contamination of millions of acres of waters with pesticides and agricultural pollutants.
The change would see the reversal of protections put in place by both former presidents Obama and George HW Bush covering post-rainfall, ‘ephemeral’ streams and wetlands not directly connected or adjacent to large bodies of water, under regulation dating back to the 1972 Clean Water Act.
EPA acting administrator Andrew Wheeler said the new proposal was "an end to the previous administration's power grab", whilst clarifying which waters federal governments have jurisdiction over and the "primary role" of the states in managing environmental resources.
Wheeler added: "Our goal is a more precise definition that gives the American people the freedom and certainty to do what they do best: build homes, grow crops, and develop projects that improve the environment and the lives of their fellow citizens."
The EPA has been reported as saying there is no way of evaluating how many streams and wetlands would lose federal protection under the changes, but according to a 2017 presentation by the US Army Corps of Engineers, cited by Environment & Energy Publishing, around 18% of streams and 51% of wetlands nationwide would no longer be protected.