In the last few weeks of 2018, the Trump administration set the stage for a big battle over water in the new year. At stake is an important rule that defines which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act. The Trump administration seeks to roll back important protections for wetlands and waterways, which are important to drinking water and wildlife.
This is just one of the upcoming water battles that could serve to define 2019. It’s also poised to be a year of reckoning on the Colorado River, which supplies water to 40 million people and 5.5 million acres of farmland. A long-anticipated multistate agreement is close to completion after an ultimatum from the federal government. And it could also be a landmark year for water management in California, with several key issues coming to a head.
Big things may also happen on the water infrastructure front and in efforts to address clean-water concerns. Of course, underlying many of the water issues is the specter of climate change, which is bringing both severe droughts and floods and exacerbating water-supply problems.
Let’s dive into some of the issues experts say we need to keep an eye on in the coming year.
Clean Water Rule Change
The biggest looming water issue this year has to do with a law passed nearly 50 years ago.
On December 12 the Trump administration unveiled a proposal to redefine the Waters of the US Rule, also known as the Clean Water Rule, which was adopted in 2015 by the Obama administration to set clear guidelines on how certain waterways and wetlands are regulated under the 1972 Clean Water Act. The action came after two Supreme Court rulings in the early 2000s created some uncertainty about what the Clean Water Act protects.
Obama’s rule slightly widened what was protected under the Clean Water Act (much to the chagrin of many industry groups and developers). For example, the 2015 rule…