Researchers at the University of Missouri are calling for a new approach to the Clean Water Act, and the team wants to start at the sink and work your way up to where the rain hits the earth.
Lawyer Robin Rotman and civil engineer Kathleen Trauth are co-authors of a study in Ecology Law Quarterly they say shows that the many government laws regulating drinking water have been ineffective and in need of overhaul.
“The reality is we’re not going anywhere,” Rotman said. “For 40 years there has been this pingpong of laws and regulations, and yet we are not seeing the improvements in drinking water quality that we think Americans should benefit from.”
The idea is that people from different perspectives and political views can agree that what comes out of the tap should be safe and clean. If that is the starting point, said Rotman, then the next steps can unfold.
“I think it’s safe to say that there is a common desire to have clean drinking water for all Americans,” Rotman said. “And so we suggest that the dialogue start there and develop from there.”
Clean water in the sink means proper pipes, which means safe water treatment plants, which means their inputs from wells, rivers and lakes must also be clean, Rotman said.
Current laws, including the Clean Water Act, the Clean Drinking Water Act, and U.S. Waters, all have different purposes and jurisdictions, Trauth said, and they may focus too much on something like defining and regulating a wetland instead of being part of an effort to achieve a common goal.
“Let’s not go back to wetlands, in particular. Said Trauth. “Why would we talk about what we regulate? Because the point is, we are regulating to help, in this case, drinking water.
Trauth also said current laws focus too much on single-source polluters, like a factory’s sewage pipe, and not enough on systems that cause pollution like nitrate runoff from land. agricultural.
The proposal would likely meet strong opposition. Environmentalists view clean water from the point of view of maintaining habitat for plants and animals. Agriculture and industry also tend to reject any provision that increases costs or hinders the use of their land.
Trauth and Rotman said their proposal could face an uphill battle, but it’s still worth the idea to start with the common goal of safe drinking water for people.
“There are different perspectives, but if we come together around a common interest, can we say, okay, how do we fix this? It’s in the best interests of all of us,” Trauth said.
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