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Rural America Wants Water Protections

As the Trump administration looks to repeal the Clean Water Rule, rancher Alfonzo Abeyta of the Rural Coalition says that farmers and ranchers are standing up for clean water regulations.

Written by Alfonzo Abeyta Published on Read time Approx. 2 minutes
Hidden off Route 17 in the San Luis Valley is a national wildlife refuge in Hopper, Colorado.Joe Amon/The Denver Post via Getty Images

For almost a half century, the Clean Water Act has protected many of America’s rivers, lakes and bays from harmful pollution. But still too many of our nation’s waters remain at risk. That’s why, a few years ago, through an extensive public process involving rural communities and industry, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued a new rule, the Clean Water Rule (also known as the Waters of the U.S. Rule), to further protect precious sources of drinking water.

My family has lived in Colorado’s San Luis Valley for five generations. My livelihood, my family’s health and my children’s future depend on national public health protections – especially for critical sources of upstream drinking water, like those protected by the Clean Water Rule.

The Trump administration, however, has signaled the repeal of this essential rule, favoring polluters and special interests over people’s health. Repealing the Clean Water Rule is a costly waste of taxpayer money and will put the drinking water of one in three of us at risk – including families like mine.

The Rural Coalition is an alliance of farmers, farmworkers, immigrants and working people. We represent rural America; the Farm Bureau, however, would have you think otherwise. The Farm Bureau, which has advocated for rescinding the Clean Water Rule, has been outspoken about their support for weaker public health protections. And the Trump EPA is falling in line. Special interests will profit from weaker rules while the rest of us – our families and our livelihoods as small business owners, farmers and farmworkers – will suffer the consequences of pollution and contaminated water.

The fact is that low-income communities and communities of color like my own in the San Luis Valley of Colorado are already disproportionately impacted by contaminated water. Small and rural communities either need private wells or lack the resources to deal with polluted water; in a very real way, it’s our families that will be hit hardest by weaker health protections. Repealing the Clean Water Rule could put the health of millions of us at risk.

The farmers and ranchers of Rural Coalition and our member National Latino Farmers and Ranchers Trade Association won’t accept a future in which more of our rivers and lakes are polluted. We won’t accept a future in which a drinking water crisis like the one in Flint, Michigan, happens more often and in more places. The Trump administration’s assault on basic science and commonsense health protections doesn’t stop at water; clean air protections and fundamental research are also under threat, as the Republican leadership has been vocal about massive budget cuts that would hobble the U.S. EPA.

It was four and a half decades ago that the Clean Water Act became law. The EPA was established because we all know that polluters won’t police themselves and polluted water won’t clean itself. And today, more than ever, we need an EPA that’s going to be cop-on-the-beat, not an EPA that will do the bidding of the most powerful industry donor.

I will do all I can to pass down the family ranch to my children and grandchildren free of public health threats. We will speak louder and more often – because our families’ lives and our kids’ futures depend on it.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Water Deeply.

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