NGWA Comments on Proposed Rule to Redefine U.S. Waters

NGWA submitted comments on April 15 regarding a proposed rule of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to redefine “waters of the United States” (WOTUS). The definition of WOTUS articulates those waters that fall under federal jurisdiction vs. state jurisdiction.

Notably, the rule continues to exclude groundwater from the definition and also proposes not to regulate many wetlands not physically connected to streams or other surface waters. Additionally, it proposes not to regulate stormwater control features and wastewater recycling structures as well as flood-irrigated fields.

NGWA’s comments agree that groundwater should continue to be regulated by states, and notes that in situations where groundwater/surface water interaction needs to be assessed, hydrogeologists have unique expertise that should be utilized. NGWA cautioned the agencies about potential adverse effects a redefinition could have on groundwater quality, specifically regarding stormwater.

The proposed redefinition of WOTUS caps off a years-long battle on an Obama-era regulation, which expanded the number of waters falling under federal jurisdiction. The redefinition currently proposed will likely end up in court.