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Waters of the United States

Credit: Sam Beebe / CC BY 2.0  
Farmers and ranchers care about clean water and preserving the land, which are essential to producing healthy food and fiber and ensuring future generations can do the same. That’s why we supported the Navigable Waters Protection Rule.
—  AFBF President Zippy Duvall

Farmers’ Clean Water Commitment

  • Farmers play a leading role in protecting our nation’s wetlands. Over the last 15 years, the number of acres enrolled in wetland and buffer practices under the Conservation Reserve Program has more than doubled (from 2.5 million acres to 5.3 million acres).
  • More than 140 million acres of U.S. farmland are used for voluntary conservation efforts and wildlife habitats—an area equal to the states of California and New York combined.
  • Farmers advocate for and support commonsense rules that don’t require a team of consultants and lawyers to navigate.

Where Things Stand on WOTUS

The Biden administration has announced plans to issue a new rule returning the definition of Waters of the United States (WOTUS) to what it was in 1986, incorporating subsequent Supreme Court Guidance. Once that rule is complete, they plan to work on a new rule that broadens the WOTUS definition even further.

The EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers have interpreted a recent district court ruling in Arizona as vacating the Navigable Waters Protection Rule nationwide. As a result, they are currently applying a WOTUS definition similar to what they have suggested will be issued in the coming months.

What Is the Navigable Waters Protection Rule?

The Navigable Waters Protection Rule defined federal water jurisdiction while continuing to protect water quality.  The rule made water and land protection, management and planning more efficient and effective by drawing clearer lines between areas subject to federal versus state jurisdiction and clarifying that usually dry areas should no longer be considered federally regulated waters.

Why the Navigable Waters Protection Rule?

  • Farmers and ranchers value clean water, and they work hard to leave the land, air and water in better shape for their families, neighbors and future generations.
  • Because clean water is a top priority, farmers and ranchers welcomed the clarity and commonsense the Navigable Waters Protection Rule provided.
  • The rule did not change who oversees waterways such as lakes, rivers and perennial streams—and it ensured states could enforce their own robust environmental laws.

Get Your Clean Water Facts

  • The Safe Drinking Water Act is the primary law that protects all public drinking water supplies across the U.S.  Changes to Clean Water Act regulations do not reduce Safe Drinking Water Act protections.
  • The Clean Water Act regulates our nation’s “navigable waters”—also called “waters of the United States.” It imposes huge fines or even criminal liability for putting almost anything into those waters without a federal permit. 
  • The Clean Water Act recognizes that some surface waters should be regulated by the federal government, while some should be protected under state law. The proposed new clean water rule seeks to clarify which waters are subject to which type of protection. In particular, it preserves state authority over many land features that only carry water when it rains. 

Farm Bureau is a member of the Waters Advocacy Coalition

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