The Stream, December 24, 2020: Criteria For Navigable Waters Protection Rule Is Flawed, Report Says


  • A new report points to flaws in the U.S. EPA’s criteria for the new Navigable Waters Protection Rule.
  • City council members in Flint, Michigan voted to approve funds for a multi-million-dollar settlement of water crisis lawsuits.
  • A number of hydro-storage projects proposed on Navajo and Hopi land raise environmental concerns.
  • A new study finds that ice-free years on lakes in the Northern Hemisphere are becoming more common.

As typhoons in Taiwan become less common, the risk of drought becomes more likely.

“If there’s no rain, what use is building bigger reservoirs?” – Huang Shu-chuan, a grain farmer in Taiwan. Climate change has decreased the probability of typhoons in Taiwan but could increase drought conditions. Reuters reports that this year, Taiwan experienced its worst drought in half a century and that over the past 50 years, severity of droughts has gradually increased. This has created a shortage of water supplies, affecting agricultural production. The reduction in irrigation water is expected to affect the island’s overall harvest of rice, which is anticipated to be of poorer quality and sell at lower prices than usual. The Water Resources Agency has promised to build three new reservoirs to counter the shortages, but some farmers see the project as a short-term solution for a long-term problem.


EPA Revises Rules for Lead in Drinking Water

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency completed its first major revisions in nearly three decades to federal rules for lead in drinking water, adding a raft of new intricacies to one of the country’s most complex drinking water regulations.

Andrew Wheeler, the EPA administrator, called the revisions “the capstone” of the Trump administration’s efforts to address lead contamination, arguing that the goal is to protect children, reduce lead, and empower communities with more information about sources of lead in their water.

Water policy experts offered a more muted appraisal of the rule, acknowledging progress in some areas but pointing out serious flaws in the overall approach.

In Case You Missed It:

Congress Adds $683 Million in Water-Bill Debt Relief to Coronavirus Package – Funds will cancel water debt or lower rates for low-income households. But questions remain about how the funds will be distributed for the first-ever federal water-bill assistance program. 

Where Are Lead Service Lines? Look for Older Homes and Poverty – The GAO uses demographic and housing data to analyze the location of lead service lines.

Watchdog Report Points To Flaws In New Navigable Water Protection Rule

A new watchdog report finds that the Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) criteria used to strip protections of the Clean Water Act (CWA) have put streams and wetlands at risk. The report was produced by the External Environmental Economics Advisory Committee, an independent organization specializing in economic science as it relates to regulations of the EPA. The report found that several assertions the EPA made when replacing the 2015 Clean Water Rule with the Navigable Waters Protection Rule were false or, at the very least, misguided. The report claims the EPA’s prediction that many states will regulate waters newly removed from the CWA’s reach is inconsistent with states’ prior behavior and that the agency’s assertion that water quality is better regulated by states is inconsistent with the best available science, among other things. The report concluded by calling for “a rigorous discussion” of how agencies should approach future environmental regulation.

In context: Clean Water Rule Repeal Cannot Come at a Pen Stroke



Flint City Council members voted to accept $20 million from an insurance policy to contribute the city’s part of a $641-million settlement of water crisis lawsuits on Tuesday. MLive reports that the vote was passed 6-1 with two abstentions, along with another resolution that voices the concerns of some council members who believe the state hasn’t given enough money to the settlement pool. Some council members also claim that the distribution formula outlined in the agreement isn’t fair to adults, who would share just 15 percent of the settlement money. As it stands now, nearly 80 percent of the settlement would be paid to children who were younger than 18 when the crisis was first uncovered in 2014 and 2015.


Three proposed hydro-storage projects on Navajo Nation land have prompted criticism from those who believe the projects would threaten endangered species and sacred Navajo and Hopi land, the Sierra Nevada Ally reports. The Center for Biological Diversity, which has filed motions to stop the projects from moving forward, voiced concerns that damming of the Little Colorado River could put its fragile ecosystem at risk, changing the flow of the river and hastening the extinction of the endangered humpback chub fish. Steven Irwin, the manager at Pumped Hydro-Storage LLC, the company that proposed the three projects, said that the hydro-storage projects have environmental and economic benefits to all parties involved.


A new study found that ice-free years on lakes in the Northern Hemisphere have become more than three times more frequent since 1978. CBC News reports that the study examined 122 lakes in North America, Europe and Asia between 1939 and 2016 and found evidence that the ice-free years threaten the livelihoods of people who depend of the lakes and have the potential to cause deep ecological impacts. Deep lakes, particularly the Great Lakes, are the most at risk. Without essential ice cover, evaporation rates may increase and reduce the amount of available freshwater. These changes are likely to continue as climate change continues to warm the planet and end of the century, the study found, more than 5,000 lakes around the world could be ice-free.

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