Thomas Robinson | January 26th, 2021
Iowa Agriculture Secretary Mike Naig says that if the Biden administration follows through with plans to change the rules of the Waters Of The United States (WOTUS) provision in the Clean Water Act, Iowa farmers could pay the price.
While exact details of the coming changes to WOTUS rules are unknown, it is likely the Biden administration will return components back to where they were under the Obama administration. Secretary Naig’s reservations have been labelled by as a “political hoax” since the Clean Water Act already excuses much of the regulation on non-point sources of pollution such as agricultural fields.
The discussion around the WOTUS rule centers on what can be defined as a “navigable” body of water. A navigable water is defined as a water that is affected by tides, or has been used for transport in the past, present, or future. The Trump Administrations changed the WOTUS rule in April, 2020 to improve the clarity for what waters are considered “navigable”, however, the changes failed to add any clarity and likely resulted in a lessening of water quality protections.
The issue of non-point source pollution in Iowa has made the news before when the Des Moines Water Works sued multiple drainage districts over their pollution of the Racoon River. The utility hoped that tile drainage from fields could be regulated as a point source rather than a non-point source and help alleviate the strain nitrogen pollution was placing on their operations. The suit was dismissed after the court ruled the drainage districts could not address the injuries incurred by the utility while also ignoring whether drainage systems are point source pollutants.