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From Newsweek

Why the EPA Struggles With Water Regulation

State and federal debates over which rivers and lakes should be regulated have left some bodies of water full of pollution, and with little hope of a mandate to clean them anytime soon. The starkest diagnosis of the breakdown of water regulation comes from EPA lawyer Douglas Mundrick. “We are, in essence, shutting down our Clean Water programs in some states,” he told the Times. The main snag is big industry, which has argued—successfully—that it should be exempt from any cuts, so long as it dumps pollution into small waterways and not big ones, which the act covers.

Yet the entire debate over jurisdiction in water regulation hopelessly ignores one of the inherent qualities of water on Earth: that it works in a cycle. When lawmakers argue that only "navigable" waterways—a fancy way of saying major ones and not the small ones that trickle through rural communities—should be regulated, they’re neglecting to note where that “navigable” water comes from (usually smaller streams) and where it goes to (other small streams, or the ocean). Which is why only partial regulation doesn’t actually solve the problem. Any fifth grader who recently memorized his water-cycle chart could authoritatively explain that bodies of water aren’t isolated; they mix.

That doesn’t make things easier for the EPA. One of the key problems for the agency is that it simply doesn’t have the reach for such broad enforcement. State officials often have different, and sometimes conflicting, strategies to regulate water. And just like with the agency’s impending plan to monitor greenhouse-gas emissions, the EPA doesn’t have the full backing of Congress, which votes to fund (or not fund) its activities.

Still, that’s not an acceptable excuse for the environments, many of whom are still waiting for the air-clearing and water-cleansing policies they voted into office. They’re not as concerned with politics. To them, clean water is just that: a no brainer.

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