AMES, Iowa – President Trump’s executive order calling for the gutting of the Clean Water Rule puts the drinking water of 117 million Americans at risk, according to a nationwide county-by-county analysis by the Environmental Working Group.
EWG found that more than one-third of the nation’s people get at least some of their drinking water from small streams, and more than 72 million Americans in 1,033 counties rely on small streams for more than half of their water. Ensuring that their water is safe to drink requires keeping those streams clean. But Trump’s order, issued Tuesday, directed Environmental Protection Agency Administrator Scott Pruitt to rescind or weaken the rule that protects small streams from industrial and agricultural pollution.
EWG researchers drew on geospatial data compiled by the EPA to identify the counties that are most dependent on small streams for their drinking water. In more than 21 states, at least a million people fit this criteria – more than 5 million each in New York, Texas and Pennsylvania, and more than 3 million each in Georgia, Maryland, Ohio, North Carolina, California and Arizona.
The Obama administration established the Clean Water Rule, extending the protections of the Clean Water Act to small streams. The rule is a common-sense safeguard supported by a majority of Americans. But industry and agribusiness have been pushing for years to roll back the rule and protect only the biggest streams and rivers – and now they’ve found a friend in the Trump administration.
“President Trump promised ‘crystal clear water,’” said Craig Cox, senior vice president for agriculture and natural resources at EWG and co-author of the analysis. “But in his very first executive order to the EPA, he’s set in motion a scenario that means dirtier water – polluted with industrial chemicals, pesticides, manure and fertilizer – could flow from the kitchen taps of tens of millions of families. After this, no one should believe the president or Scott Pruitt when they say they will protect Americans’ drinking water.”