Little Discussed “Impaired Waters” Are the “Endangered Species” of Our Water Resource

Source: Merriam Webster

The vast majority of Americans have heard of the Endangered Species Act and know, at a basic level, the definition of an endangered species. But the equivalent for bodies of water, Clean Water Act 303(d) listed impaired waters, is obscure and barely ever mentioned in the press.

A simple search of Google News brings up 14,900 references to “endangered species” in the last month. But the same search for “impaired waters” results in 165. That’s about a 100:1 ratio between the two terms. Of course, endangered species are inherently more charismatic than water bodies – a polar bear is cuter than a lake any day of the week – but this exercise still shows a staggering lack of discussion in the online media about our most threatened water bodies.

Every two years (even numbered), each state must supply a list of impaired water bodies (lakes, rivers, etc.) to the EPA under the Clean Water Act’s section 303(d). The EPA uses these lists to determine the national priorities for cleanup and research efforts.

According to the EPA website, there are currently 41,496 impaired water bodies in the United States. But even this number probably isn’t complete. The EPA’s water website is woefully out of date, something that we will discuss in another post. We are currently waiting for a response from the people who run the site, and we would like to give them a chance to explain and respond.

We can all help spread the awareness of 303(d)-listed impaired waters. If you have a blog or social media account, you can help just by talking about water. Use the term “impaired waters” the way you would use “endangered species”. Look up your state’s list and find the listed water body closest to you. The more we talk about our impaired waters, the more the media and the government will realize that we care about them. Like any awareness campaign, it’s not a solution, but it’s a start.

We have begun a series of posts here on the blog called “Our Impaired Waters”, looking at 303(d) listings for some of the most important water bodies in the country. The posts so far:
- The Missouri River

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