Waterkeeper Alliance position statements provide transparency about what the organization represents, which supports clear, consistent, and effective advocacy and communication. They inform our constituency, partners, stakeholders, media, and the public about the prevailing organizational views on key issues.
This does not preclude local Waterkeeper Organizations and Affiliates from having their own local/regional positions that do not fully align with Waterkeeper Alliance national and global positions.
Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act must be fully implemented and enforced across the country. This landmark legislation must protect America’s watersheds the way the law was intended. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) needs to improve oversight of delegated state programs and establish clearer definitions, stronger pollution standards, meaningful deadlines, and prioritized enforcement. EPA must prioritize holding states accountable for addressing non-point source pollution and restoring impaired waters. We have made great progress, but many waters remain polluted. We cannot go back to the era of burning rivers and dying ecosystems.
Emerging Contaminants and PFAS
The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) must prioritize monitoring and strictly regulating the discharge of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances, or PFAS, into our nation’s waters. These ‘forever chemicals’ can take thousands of years to break down, meaning once they get into water, people, fish, and animals are exposed to them for a very long time. These colorless, tasteless chemicals end up in our bloodstream and have been linked to a variety of serious adverse health outcomes, including cancer. Despite the danger and prevalence of these emerging contaminants, they are mostly unregulated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. And that urgently needs to change.
Pollution does not impact everyone equally. Low-income communities are far too often excluded from the decision making process around the siting of these facilities. As a result, the burden of industrial waste, including toxic waste, elevated air pollution, contaminated drinking water, and other unsafe conditions have disproportionately harmed these communities for generations. We need to put real dollars to work in restoring and remediating distressed areas to provide justice, equality, and better health outcomes to correct decades of environmental damage inflicted upon the health and wellbeing of low-income communities, communities of color, and Indigenous communities.
Fossil Fuels/Keep It In The Ground
Fossil fuels pollute our waterways and climate throughout their life cycle, including extraction, transportation, combustion, and disposal. We must immediately transition to clean and renewable energy if we are to meet the aggressive emission targets needed to avoid the worst impacts of climate change. We cannot afford to keep extracting fossil fuels, especially on public lands. Fossil fuel companies should not be incentivized to build infrastructure, such as pipelines and export terminals, that further locks us into a dangerous energy system for decades to come. Similarly, insurance companies and banks must be encouraged to stop investing in these dirty and dangerous projects.
Factory Farm Biogas
Factory farm biogas, which is generated from the excess hog waste created at Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs), is a false solution to climate change and should not be considered a source of clean energy. It’s dirty energy. These projects, which are predominantly sited in frontline communities, rely heavily on pipelines, which can leak methane and ruin crucial habitats like wetlands. They also compound the environmental concerns caused by CAFOs, including air and water pollution, heighten the impact of natural disasters on surrounding communities, and discourage investment in environmentally superior – and truly clean – technologies.
Hydropower (as clean and/or renewable energy)
Hydropower, generated by dams and reservoirs, is a false solution to climate change that should not be promoted as a source of clean energy and should not benefit from climate incentives. Hydroelectric dams and their reservoirs create tremendous amounts of methane. They also negatively impact biodiversity, Indigenous communities, river-based livelihoods and communities, and destroy wildlife habitats. We call for a global halt on all new dam construction, prioritization of dam removal where feasible, and robust mitigation for the damage done by those facilities we cannot yet remove.
Industrial Animal Agriculture
Our food systems must transition away from relying on Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to more sustainable agricultural processes, for the sake of clean water, climate change, and environmental justice. CAFOs wreak havoc on local waterways, human health, and property value. These facilities are disproportionately sited in nonwhite, low-income communities. CAFOs can produce millions of gallons of animal waste, which often sit in open cesspools that are vulnerable to spilling over and contaminating drinking water sources. The only way industrial agriculture companies can sell at a lower cost than most family farmers is by avoiding responsibility for managing the animal waste that poisons our air and water.
Nutrient Pollution and Harmful Algal Blooms
Nutrient pollution from uncontrolled discharges of nitrogen and phosphorus has become a national crisis that is producing toxic algal blooms and impairing drinking water supplies, fisheries, and recreational waters across the country. Lake Erie, the Chesapeake Bay, the Mississippi River Basin, North Carolina’s coastal estuaries, and many other inland and coastal waters are already polluted, which according to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), is “resulting in serious environmental and human health issues, and impacting the economy.” To address this nationwide crisis, we need the EPA to implement and enforce the Clean Water—by requiring Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) to get protective permits and ensuring that all of the nation’s waters are protected by water quality standards and total maximum daily loads.
Plastic pollution is much more than just littering. It’s a slow motion oil spill. Single-use consumer plastic products must be discontinued, a moratorium on new plastic production facilities enacted, and the onus of recycling costs shifted away from taxpayer-funded municipalities to manufacturers. Plastic production is at historic highs while plastic recycling is on the decline, and even then it falls short of true closed-loop recycling. When plastic doesn’t end up in our waterways, it’s sent to a frontline community to either be burnt or sit in a landfill. Nurdles, the small plastic pellets that serve as raw materials in plastic product manufacturing, microplastics, and other forms of plastic pollution represent one of the most significant and persistent threats to clean water.
The availability and sustainable management of water and sanitation for all is crucial to clean water. Public sewage systems must receive consistent investment and inspection. Aging infrastructure and pipes should be upgraded with low-interest grants now before they fail and potentially impair waterways. Wetland restoration, daylighting, and other green solutions should be funded to help absorb stormwater before it combines with sewer systems. Education campaigns must be undertaken to ensure septic systems are used properly where public sewage systems do not apply.
Waters of the United States
All waters of the United States must be afforded full protections under the Clean Water Act, including wetlands, ephemeral streams, and non-navigable lakes. Any weakening of these protections, as was attempted by previous administrations, leaves American waterways needlessly vulnerable to pollution, diversions, and drought. Every day that American waters go unprotected is another day polluters can skirt around regulations, impact the health of our communities, and impair our shared waterways. We must protect all waters of the United States, not endanger them.
Adequate water is an increasingly scarce resource that must be actively and aggressively protected from further depletion by the effects of climate change, overuse and mismanagement. This is particularly important for our most vulnerable frontline communities that often experience the first and worst consequences. All fossil fuel extraction must be opposed in order to slow the rate of water depletion driven by climate change, conservation and efficiency laws must be enacted to protect shrinking supplies, and regulations and incentive programs that encourage water management best practices must be adopted. Water plans, laws, and regulations should be inclusive in order to be more durable and more effective.