Guest column: Support the new clean-water rule

Elise Jones and Steve Skadron
Guest column

As elected officials representing local and county governments in Colorado, we are responsible for overseeing the provision of clean, reliable and affordable drinking water to our communities.

For us, clean water is not an abstract issue. It is part of our obligation to our constituents and their livelihoods on a daily basis.

More than 2 out of every 3 people in Colorado get their drinking water from sources that rely on small streams that are vulnerable to pollution, so we are quite sensitive to any issues relating to water supply and quality.

We understand that the Environmental Protection Agency has issued a clean-water rule that clarifies and restores safeguards for water bodies that had been protected for nearly 30 years. New interpretations in 2003 and 2007 called into question whether existing law extended federal protection to headwater streams, adjacent wetlands and so-called isolated wetlands.

The new rule clarification is based on a transparent stakeholder-engagement process — and scientifically rigorous study — conducted by the EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers and holds great promise because it will benefit our local water systems by protecting small streams and wetlands. This will help filter out pollution, reduce flooding and recharge our dwindling groundwater supplies.

It also will help provide wildlife habitat that draws hunters and anglers to our communities from around the country: The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service reports that in 2011, $3 billion was spent on fishing and wildlife recreation throughout Colorado, including $649 million spent just on fishing.

After a day hunting or fishing in Colorado, visitors can down a pint or two of local beer. Craft breweries contribute almost $1.6 billion to our state’s economy every year while supporting more than 19,200 jobs.

A 2013 report by the Beer Institute, which represents the nation’s breweries, says that Colorado is the nation’s leading state in terms of the beer industry’s per-capita impact. The brewing industry’s large economic impact is an important reason why so many craft brewers strongly support the EPA’s clean-water rule. Local craft beer, made with clean, local water, is a great combination in more ways than one!

In rule-making processes such as this, we believe it is important to calibrate the proper balance of costs and obligations among various levels of government. Happily, we feel this rule strikes the right balance, with the many quantifiable economic benefits outweighing the costs. However, some in Congress want to overturn the public rule-making process that is on the verge of upholding the important protections that have helped revive our nation’s water bodies since the troubled 1970s.

Opponents of the clean-water process are seeking a return to uncertainty, inefficiency and costly obstruction rather than agreeing to this collaborative process that has involved so many stakeholders around the country. Now, we call upon Congress, the Obama administration and other key parties to protect our nation’s irreplaceable waterways. We urge implementation of the public rule that will help ensure the quality, reliability and safety of our drinking water, our economy and future supplies of clean water.

Clean drinking water is the cornerstone of a healthy, modern society. Let’s protect it.

Elise Jones is a Boulder County commissioner. Steve Skadron is the mayor of Aspen.


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