Polluters from Big Ag, to developers, to the oil and gas industry have a vested interest in rolling back protections to our waterways.  Because when loopholes in the Clean Water Act remain open, many of them can continue to dump into our streams and pave over our wetlands without penalty.

So they’re working to derail the EPA’s Clean Water Rule, which would restore critical protections to waterways across the country.  These polluters and their allies in Congress continue to say that the EPA wants to regulate every mud puddle and bird bath and that this rule would be the biggest land grab in history.  At their joint hearing a few weeks ago, polluters’ allies in Congress came armed with pictures and charts to make their case. 

Clean Water Network is collecting photos of streams that flow into larger waters and wetlands.  We’ll use these photos to demonstrate what this rule is really all about—the waterways that feed and filter the rivers and lakes that we love, and the drinking water for 117 million Americans.  We’re not looking for pictures of iconic rivers, but rather their tributaries, like headwater, intermittent, and ephemeral streams, or wetlands. These are the types of waterways that this rule would restore protections to.

Will you send us a photo? 

Here are suggestions of ways to get a photo. Below are details about the most critical types of waters.

  • Take a photo yourself. 
  • Reach out to your state agency.  Many states have documented various types of waters in their borders, and you can access the images by filing a request under the Freedom of Information Act.
  • Send this message to your members asking them to send in photos of these critical waterways.

To submit a photo, email the image to kwilliams@environmentamerica.org with a caption of what the waterway is and any other relevant information about the ecosystem. Thanks to everyone who has already done so.

And later this summer you’ll get another chance to show off the beauty of your local waterway.  The Clean Water Network will be launching an effort to invite key Senators and Representatives to experience local waterways by climbing in a boat and seeing its beauty firsthand.  If you’d be interested in hosting such an event, please email me.


Here are some of the critical waterways that are relevant to this rule.

  • Headwater streams are the beginnings of rivers, the uppermost streams in the river network furthest from the river’s endpoint or confluence with another stream. Headwater streams trap floodwaters, recharge groundwater supplies, remove pollution, provide fish and wildlife habitat, and sustain the health of downstream rivers, lakes and bays.
  • Seasonal streams (intermittent) flow during certain times of the year when smaller upstream waters are flowing and when groundwater provides enough water for stream flow. Runoff from rainfall or other precipitation supplements the flow of seasonal stream. During dry periods, seasonal streams may not have flowing surface water.
  • Rain-dependent streams (ephemeral) flow only after precipitation. Runoff from rainfall is the primary source of water for these streams. Like seasonal streams, they can be found anywhere but are most prevalent in arid areas.  Despite their seasonal or temporary appearance on the landscape, seasonal and rain-dependent streams are critical to the health of river systems, are hydrologically and biologically connected to the downstream waters, and provide many of the same functions and values as rivers and larger streams. The arid Southwest and Midwest portions of the country have the highest number of seasonal and rain-dependent streams.  For example, more than 95 percent of the streams in Arizona are seasonal.
  • Wetlands are the transitional zones between land and water. They are unique ecosystems where the plants, soil and animals are shaped by the presence of water at or below the surface for at least part of the year. Wetlands include swamps, marshes, bogs and fens.  They are often found alongside waterways and in flood plains. However, wetlands are found all throughout the landscape. Some, like prairie potholes, form in depressions on the land or over poorly drained soils. While some wetlands have no apparent connection to surface water like rivers, lakes or the ocean, most wetlands have critical groundwater connections.
  • Prairie potholes, playa lakes, and vernal pools, are currently categorized as “other waters”, and may be protected under the Clean Water Act if it can be demonstrated that they collectively have a more than speculative effect on the biological, physical, and chemical integrity of downstream waters. In other words, the agencies need to determine that there is a significant connection between those “other waters” and downstream protected waters.