WOTUS, Clean Water, and Bursting Dams

Farmers, environmentalists, and politicians are often trying to keep their heads above the rising tide of water controversies. They swim in the churning currents of water rights, food production, regulations—and the need for all to have access to safe water. Two current news items, a science-based research paper, and a visit with farm kids playing in a pasture creek might give you some insights.
Waters of the United States (WOTUS)–What the heck is a nexus? 
President Donald Trump filed an executive order to review the WOTUS rule, and new EPA administrator Scott Pruitt hinted a rewrite may include the removal of the so-called “significant nexus” test. This recent article explains the basics of the “nexus principle” and the probable changes coming to the WOTUS rule.
Clean Water Rule–will they turn off the water works?
This article/podcast provides an overview of situations involving agriculture and the Clean Water Rule, and it also looks at a specific water dispute, the lawsuit involving the Des Moines Water Works and farmers in three Iowa counties.  
Assessing the Health of Streams–what’s the prognosis, doctor?
The Clean Water Act of 1987 states that the elimination of pollutant discharge into navigable water is a national goal. Despite conservation efforts, water quality problems still exist; agricultural states struggle with balancing productive landscapes and water quality. Legislation, potential regulations, or allocations of millions of dollars to change agricultural practices seem warranted only if we know stream water is favorably impacted by modified agricultural practices, and in which streams the greatest potential impact might be observed. This science-based research paper from CAST looks at these situations: Assessing the Health of Streams in Agricultural Landscapes: The Impacts of Land Management Change on Water Quality.
When the Dam Bursts–excerpt from an earlier blog
Eight of us are scattered in the creek and along the bank where the water cuts into the cow pasture. We’re moving stones and clumps of sod or pushing large sticks into the shallow water. Breeches in the small dam continue to pop up, but we’re slowing the flow. Our preteen mob of siblings and cousins can accomplish plenty if we call it play and not work. 
A scraggly cottonwood tree clings to the east bank, and the light breeze jostles the shiny leaves that reflect the afternoon sun. Nothing else is going on in the world—our horizons end where corn rustles in nearby fields and where livestock barns form distant silhouettes in the summer haze. Our parents are light years away in a fog of work and whatever else grown-ups do. We have cool water, bare feet, and warm sand. The small pool grows enough to convince us of our powers. 
The younger ones aren’t much help, but they’re into the buzz of it all. They see the water rise, hear us brag about making a swimming hole, and maybe believe us when we talk of constructing a dam like the beavers did a mile or so downstream in the woods.
For a while we ignore the blowflies, and we’re too wet to feel the sun searing into our shoulders. A couple of us dog paddle and scrape our knees in the backwater. Terry, the oldest of the cousins, names it the Grand Coutie Dam.
About the time a rip in the dam opens up, the youngest cousin gets tangled in nettles and a few of us start a mud fight. Eventually a cloudbank casts a long shadow, and the breeze shifts to the northwest. We dog paddlers shiver a bit and pull on our T-shirts.
“Hey, I think Mom’s baking chocolate chip cookies this afternoon,” my brother says. On the walk home, we avoid the bull thistles by following the cattle path in the pasture. The younger ones lag behind, but we turn around often enough to make sure they’re coming. 
Mom makes us step out of our wet Keds, but she knows the kitchen will soon be marked with mud, cockleburs, and loud boasts about conquering the creek. By the time we’re halfway through our cookies and milk, clear flowing water has opened several large holes in Grand Coutie. Tomorrow, the bend in the creek will look about the way it did earlier this morning when the sun rose over the farm. 
by dan gogerty (bottom pic from rxflyfishing.com)

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