Clean Water Act: What Is It and What's At Risk?

The Clean Water Act was established in 1972 to safeguard water quality and watershed health across the United States, but proposed changes are now putting this important legislation at risk.

Published March 12, 2019

The proposed changes to the Clean Water Act by the current administration eliminate some bodies of water from current protections by narrowing the definition of “waters of the United States.” These changes could leave areas with seasonal or isolated bodies of water—including freshwater wetlands—vulnerable to development and potential destruction.

Wetlands on the Eastern Shore

So, just what are wetlands and why are they important?

Wetlands are areas of land where water covers the soil, providing habitat to both aquatic and land animals. Depending on the quantity and frequency of rainfall within the area, certain wetlands are seasonal, while others exist all year long.

Wetlands are important for many different reasons. They provide critical habitat to a vast number of species, ranging from tiny invertebrates to large mammals. Many species find an abundance of food in these habitats, while others utilize wetlands for reproduction and nursery habitat. The survival of many species depends on the continued existence of wetland habitats.

Freshwater wetlands also play a key role in maintaining the health and water quality of water bodies that sit downstream. They capture, store and filter floodwaters and polluted stormwater runoff. Wetlands slow the flow of stormwater runoff while absorbing excess nutrients, allowing suspended sediments to settle and helping to remove pollutants.

Pledge your support for the protection of freshwater habitats at aqua.org/clean-water.

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