Home Law Clean Water Act
Clean Water Act

The federal Clean Water Act (CWA) is the main piece of federal legislation that protects the Nation's waters. Within the CWA, there are a number of sections that specifically address protection or regulation of wetlands. For example, Section 303 addresses water quality standards; Section 401 includes 401 Certification—to condition permits; Section 402 addresses the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES); and Section 404 includes the dredge and fill permitting program as well as State Assumption.

On Wednesday, March 25, 2014, the US Environmental Protection Agency and the US Army Corps of Engineers released the official draft rule to clarify jurisdiction over streams and wetlands. The Association of State Wetland Managers (ASWM) has been following the rulemaking process for more than two years, and has been actively involved with other organizations in interpreting the proposed clarifications and their implications for managing wetlands, streams, floodplains and water quality.

The Clean Water Act was weakened by the US Supreme Court after the split decision known as the Rapanos and Carabell Decision in 2006, which followed another complex debate known as the SWANCC Decision in 2001. The intent of the proposed rule is to clarify jurisdiction for the protection of the nation’s water resources in response to multiple requests from multiple sectors, including the agricultural community, consultants, regulators, developers, natural resource managers and conservation groups.

In addition to publishing the proposed rule on Clean Water Act jurisdiction, EPA and the Army Corps also published an interpretive rule “regarding the Applicability of the Exemption from Permitting under Section 404(f)(1)(A) of the Clean Water Act to Certain  Agricultural Conservation Practices” that can be found here.

For more information on the new proposed rule, read ASWM Executive Director’s blog here, or visit:

Geographically Isolated Wetlands of the United States

Waters of the United States

Background Information on Clean Water Act Definition of “Wwaters of the U.S.”

Science Advisory Board Connectivity Report

Interpretive Rule on Agriculture Exemption

ASWM has a robust collection of discussion papers on wetlands and jurisdictional issues, Rapanos, SWANCC and other significant court cases under Law on the menu.

Clean Water Act Guidance

In 2011, the U.S. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers developed draft guidance for determining whether a waterway, water body, or wetland is protected by the Clean Water Act. This guidance would have replaced previous guidance to reaffirm protection for critical waters. It was also intended to provide clearer, more predictable guidelines for determining which water bodies are protected by the Clean Water Act. The Agencies' Joint draft guidance was never finalized due to multiple requests from stakeholders to issue a rulemaking instead of guidance. The proposed rule described in the section above is the result of that effort to develop the requested rule. For a link to the 2011 Proposed Guidance, click here. For the 2011 Federal Registry Notice, click here.

Clean Water Act Better at 40 (Minnesota Pollution Control Agency)

New EPA Survey Underscores Need to Release Clean Water Act Guidance
Wednesday, 03 April 2013 00:00

By Karen Hobbs – Switchboard – March 27, 2013

EPA released the results of a comprehensive survey yesterday that shows that more than half – 55 percent – of our nation’s streams and rivers are in poor condition. More than half. That’s a 10 percent increase from the 2002 survey, which found that 45% of assessed rivers and streams were impaired.  What’s particularly striking about the latest survey are the levels of nutrient pollution: 27 percent of our rivers and streams were found to have excessive levels of nitrogen and 40% have excessive levels of phosphorous.  Nutrient pollution can lead to dangerous algal blooms (like this one in Lake Erie), which kill fish, close beaches and harm local economies. For full blog post, click here.

At the Confluence of the Clean Water Act & Prior Appropriation
Friday, 01 March 2013 00:00

Environmental Law Institute – February 2013

The Environmental Law Institute has published a report that explores the states’ dominant role in water rights and in setting and enforcing water quality standards.  The report is intended to improve comprehensive understanding, particularly among lawmakers, advocates, and state and federal agency staff, of the strength of surface water quality and quantity authorities relative to one another in the Western U.S.; the consequences of existing laws, governance structures, and practices on the success of those two programs; and opportunities to reduce adverse impacts in the future. To view report, click here.

Supreme Court Reverses Ninth Circuit on Clean Water Act Issue
Thursday, 10 January 2013 18:04

By Mike Swiger and Sharon White – VanNess Feldman – January 9, 2013

In Los Angeles County Flood Control District v. Natural Resources Defense Council, Inc., No. 11-460, decided January 8, 2013, the United States Supreme Court unanimously held that the flow of water from an improved portion of a navigable waterway into an unimproved portion of the same waterway does not qualify as a “discharge of a pollutant” under the Clean Water Act (CWA).  The Court reversed a U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit decision holding that pre-polluted water originating from a navigable river and passing through a “man-made construction” into the natural river below is a “discharge of a pollutant” under the CWA.  The Ninth Circuit’s decision raised concerns for the hydropower industry because dams are man-made constructions in navigable waters that discharge water downstream, and the decision suggested, contrary to well-established precedent, that dams could become subject to National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting under section 402 of the CWA. To read more, click here

U.S. Supreme Court Reaffirms Settled Precedent for Regulating Transfers of Water Through Stormwater Systems and Other Water Infrastructure – Holland & Knight – January 10, 2013

In victory for Va., judge rules EPA can’t regulate storm water as pollutant
Tuesday, 08 January 2013 14:54

By Corinne Reilly – The Washington Post – January 3, 2013

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency exceeded its authority in trying to regulate storm water as it would a pollutant, a federal judge in Alexandria ruled Thursday. The decision, a victory for Fairfax County and Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli II (R), came six months after the county and state filed a lawsuit against the EPA over its attempt to regulate the amount of water flowing through Fairfax’s Accotink Creek watershed as a means of controlling sediment buildup. County and state officials called it a massive regulatory overreach that would have devastated economic development and cost taxpayers millions in unnecessary expenses. For full story, click here.

Clean Water Act 2.0: Rights of Waterways
Monday, 15 October 2012 00:38

By Linda Sheehan – Huffington Post – October 15, 2012

In a decisive display of bipartisanship, Congress passed the U.S. Clean Water Act into law on October 18, 1972, overriding President Nixon's veto. The Act faced significant hurdles; for example, my own, pre-Clean Water Act childhood in Massachusetts included sewage-choked beaches radiating illness toward those brave enough to approach beckoning waves, and industrial waste discharges that poisoned my favorite fishing runs. For full blog post, click here.

<< Start < Prev 1 2 3 4 Next > End >>

Page 1 of 4