U.S. EPA announces final rule to address water quality for tribes

May 6, 2024
An EPA ruling will provide additional clarity for tribes and their water resources.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a final rule on May 2, 2024, that will help protect water quality where local Tribes hold and assert rights to aquatic and aquatic-dependent resources.

This will establish a clear and consistent framework for EPA and states to consider Tribal treaty and reserved rights when establishing Water Quality Standards under the Clean Water Act.

The final rule, when implemented, will better protect waters that Tribes use for fishing, fathering, cultural practices and other uses.

The EPA has historically addressed Tribal reserved rights under the Clean Water Act on a case-by-case basis. That practice fostered uncertainty for Tribes, states and entities seeking to comply with Clean Water Act requirements. The new rule adds clarity and transparency by revising federal water quality standards regulation to better protect the Tribes’ rights under the Clean Water Act.

With the new rule, the EPA ensures that water quality standards are established while taking into account Clean Water Act-protected aquatic and aquatic-dependent resources where Tribes hold and assert rights to those resources.

The final regulatory framework will be applied consistently, rather than case-by-case, while accounting for local conditions and factors to inform the development of specific water quality standards.

“With this action, EPA is establishing clear rules of the road that will support healthier Tribal communities. We look forward to partnering with Tribes and our state co-regulators to implement Clean Water Act protections consistent with Tribal treaty and reserved rights,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan in a press release.

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