Update needed to water quality legislation


Update needed to water quality legislation

University of Missouri researchers are urging legislation be updated or new legislation be made to protect water quality.

Lead researcher Robin Rotman, an MU associate professor of natural resources, tells Brownfield nonpoint source pollution – like runoff from roads, parking lots, yards, gardens and ag fields – isn’t controlled under the Clean Water Act or Safe Drinking Water Act which regulate water quality standards.

“The Clean Water Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act were passed 50 years ago, so they don’t reflect our current understanding of the connectivity between surface water quality and drinking water quality and so forth,” she said.

She said the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 and litigation began in the 1980s determining what its reach is. Rotman said because the language in the Clean Water Act is so broad, it might be better to pursue new legislation rather than litigate the current meaning behind the act’s language.

Rotman said there have been some successful programs limiting pesticide and fertilizer runoff in rural areas, pointing to the Conservation Reserve Program.

“That is focusing on riparian buffers or other soft solutions in the landscape to prevent runoff,” Rotman said.

But she said there is room for improvement on managing fertilizer application to prevent further runoff. Rotman said water quality management programs in general have been “very much” underfunded by Congress and increased state control or input could benefit government led programs.

The study’s co-author, MU associate professor of civil and environmental engineering, Kate Trauth tells Brownfield under the Safe Drinking Water Act, community water systems must provide ‘high quality water” adding treatment steps.

“If we can look holistically and limit what goes in, then we don’t have to have so much effort and expense on taking it out,” Trauth said.

She said it would likely be easier for the Safe Drinking Water Act to be amended to include nonpoint source pollutants over the Clean Water Act because it directly governs drinking water quality.

Trauth said there are voluntary provisions in the Safe Drinking Water Act to implement water shed buffers but more needs to be done.

“Maybe we’re getting to the point where we say, you know, ‘hey’ we really do need to all sit around the table, think about this, implement various watershed strategies, buffers and things like that to prevent these materials to come in,” she said.

Trauth said the first step is to better educate on nonpoint source pollution and better care for local water sources.

Robin Rotman and Kate Trauth Interview