Arizona seeks to create surface water protections after Clean Water Act rollback

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By Ariana Brocious | Arizona Public Media

Since June, a large proportion of Arizona’s rivers, lakes and streams have not been protected by the Clean Water Act, the result of changes to federal rules by the Trump administration in 2019. The state had relied on the landmark law to keep its arid streams free of pollution. 

But after the federal protections were limited, Arizona set to work on its own set of surface-water quality standards. 

For the past two years, the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality has been working to craft the new rules with public input. Trevor Baggiore, director of the agency’s water quality division, said a bill currently moving through the Legislature will help fill the regulatory gap.

“This legislation provides immediate protection for Arizona’s wet waters. These are waters that we drink, waters that we fish in and waters where we recreate,” Baggiore said.

The new program would create a list of protected surface waters determined by the state and a panel of farmers, city leaders, industry groups and environmentalists. That list could be modified in the years to come through ADEQ’s rulemaking process. 

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