Local Water Resource Protection Law

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Why do you need a local law to protect streams and rivers, lakes, wetlands and aquifers?

STREAM45This question comes up often because many people believe:

  • existing federal and state laws already protect our water.
  • because water looks clean, there’s no problem.

Before you dive into writing a local ordinance or law to protect the water resources in your community,  review why it’s needed. This will help you promote your project to others in the community and gather support.


Here are a few ideas:

Unknown-11. The need to fill gaps in federal and state environmental protection laws

As important as knowing what state and federal laws protect, you need to understand  what they don’t protect. Because that’s where you come in with local protection. For example, many wetlands and small streams do not fall under the jurisdiction of the Clean Water Act. Standard water quality testing may omit many locally important chemical contaminants.

2. The need to protect systems (watersheds, ecosystems) and address the effects of climate change

There is no single law that protects watershed systems. In addition,  climate change affects how natural water systems work to alleviate floods, store water, and improve water quality.

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3. Local values

Communities may have water resources  that are locally significant, and so are not adequately protected by federal or state regulations. Local protection allows a municipality to assert its municipal authority and adequately protect the community’s water for residents.

4. Recognizing ecosystem benefits to your community.

Water resources provide services and benefits for human communities. Land use activities change water resources in predictable ways. When these resources are impaired or degraded we lose their benefits.

5. Considering the natural resources that have already been lost.

Significant water resources have already been lost; as a result we have fewer wetlands and streams and in some places depleted groundwater reserves.

As population increases, land use activities increase, impacts on water resources increase, and so does the need for adequate protection.


Next step: Local law: Community support


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