Commetary: U.S. Senator Tom Udall (D-N.M.) released the following statement on the Trump administration’s rollback of protections under the “Waters of the United States” provision of the Clean Water Act:
“Simply put, the Trump administration is endangering the future of clean water in New Mexico, the Southwest and across the country. The proposed changes would strip Clean Water Act protections from the vast majority of New Mexico’s surface waters, putting drinking and irrigation supplies at further risk. This means more hazardous pollution into open waterways and then into our groundwater, more damaging floods following rains, and more destruction of habitat for fish, birds, and other wildlife we treasure.
“Every one of us depends on clean water to survive, and this short-sighted, special-interest driven policy is a direct threat to both public health and wildlife—at the same time that this administration is ignoring climate change and rampant habitat destruction. New Mexico cannot afford to see our precious water resources trampled on by a federal agency that should be protecting our environment, and our state must act to safeguard our water for future generations.”
The Trump administration’s proposed changes to the definition of the “waters of the United States” will massively reduce Clean Water Act protections on New Mexico’s surface water sources. The proposal to exclude so-called “ephemeral” waterways – arroyos, streams and rivers that depend on seasonal rain like monsoons or snowmelt – will greatly affect arid states like New Mexico and the broader American West where these waterways channel floodwaters, support entire ecosystems, and recharge groundwater aquifers, drinking and irrigation water.
Nearly 96 percent of New Mexico’s waters are smaller rivers and streams that only flow for part of the year, and they drain into the bigger rivers – such as the Rio Grande and the Gila – that provide over 300,000 New Mexicans with drinking water. Under the changes, oil and gas production sites, mining operations, and real estate developers can pollute—or even destroy—these waters without facing any limit.