How To Make the Clean Water Act Work Better

A legal scholar suggests mechanisms for closing loopholes that limit the law’s effectiveness.

1 minute read

March 7, 2024, 9:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

View of green lush wetland in Florida with lightly cloudy blue sky.

volgariver / Adobe Stock

Writing in The Regulatory Review, Jackson Nichols outlines an argument by law professor Erin Ryan that the federal Clean Water Act (CWA), in its current state, doesn’t do enough to protect and preserve increasingly threatened U.S. waterways.

“In a recent article, Ryan contends that, by addressing quality alone, federal water governance fails to connect the ‘inextricably intertwined’ elements of water quality and quantity.” Ryan notes that “the regulation of water quantity—how much water remains within a regulated waterway—occurs almost entirely through state allocation laws independent of the CWA,” limiting the impact of the federal law.

For Ryan, “The roadblocks hindering the creation of comprehensive national standards are jurisdictional barriers, historical practice, pure practicality, and constitutional limits on federal power.” Thus, the CWA is ‘necessary but not sufficient’ to protect stretched water supplies and preserve bodies of water to protect from pollution.

Ryan recommends several legal tools that can be used to ‘plug the holes’ in the CWA and make it more effective legislation, including the public trust doctrine and the rights of nature movement, which call for the protection of natural resources for the benefit of both humans and nature. “Both speak to concerns “underserved” by conventional environmental law, both protect values underappreciated in cost-benefit analyses, and both embody last resort arguments in court.”

Thursday, February 29, 2024 in The Regulatory Review

Satalite image of a bright green lake surrounded by brownish-green land

California’s Largest Natural Lake Turns Green With … Algae

A potentially toxic algal bloom has turned Clear Lake in Northern California bright green, fed by increased runoff from human activity.

June 4, 2024 - Los Angeles Times

Moving truck with open back door with furniture and a blue suitcase visible inside.

The 15 Fastest-Growing Cities in the US

The U.S. Census Bureau released new 2023 population estimates on May 16 showing a slew of data for cities of all sizes and regions. Do you know the population change last year for the 15 largest cities in your state?

June 3, 2024 - Irvin Dawid

Three colorful, large beachfront homes, one khaki, one blue, and one yellow, with a small dune in front and flat sand in foreground.

Florida Homeowners 'Nope Out' of Beach Restoration Over Public Access

The U.S. Corps of Engineers and Redington Shores, Florida are at a standstill: The Corps won’t spend public money to restore private beaches, and homeowners are refusing to grant public access to the beaches behind their home in return for federal assistance.

June 7, 2024 - Grist

Close-up of gas pump with yellow buttons and price screens.

How Transportation Costs Vary Across US Cities

A new analysis reveals how annual transportation costs compare around the country.

35 minutes ago - yahoo! Finance

Large wood structure with bridge and people standing on it in green park in Toledo, Ohio.

Innovative Park Agencies Receive National Recognition

The National Recreation and Park Association (NRPA) recently announced the recipients of this year’s awards for innovation in health and wellness, equity, conservation, and park design.

1 hour ago - National Recreation and Park Association

Line of cars at a McDonald's drive-thru at night.

St. Paul Considers Drive-Thru Restrictions

Limiting drive-thrus can make streets more dangerous for pedestrians and snarl traffic.

2 hours ago - Axios

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.