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KUNC is among the founding partners of the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration of public media stations that serve the Western states of Colorado, Idaho, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Wyoming.

Clean Water Act Roll Backs Will Most Affect Western States

Mountain streams run high in the spring but can be dry by fall.
Flickr Creative Commons/momo go via Attribution-NonCommercial 2.0 Generic (CC BY-NC 2.0)
Mountain streams run high in the spring but can be dry by fall.

Western states are likely to be affected most by the Trump administration's proposal to roll back parts of the Clean Water Act. The Environmental Protection Agency would no longer give special protections to thousands of miles of seasonal streams and millions of acres of wetlands that often go dry by late summer in the arid West. That would leave states to decide whether to protect such waters themselves. 

University of Wyoming Ecosystem Science Professor Ginger Paige said that would be just fine with Wyoming water managers.

"Wyoming likes, as most Western states do, to have control of what goes on within their state and within their water resources," said Paige.

She said pollutants like salts and methane gases from energy development sites do sometimes contaminate such ephemeral waterways. She said right now water conservation districts are working well with state agencies, but it's unclear whether the state has the manpower to monitor all of those without federal oversight.

Western Resource Advocates attorney Ariel Calmes said such monitoring is incredibly important.

"Because many of those intermittent streams are located on federal lands," she said. "They're high up in the mountains and those are drinking water."

Calmes said some Western states like Utah already have strong rules on their books, but other states like Wyoming might cut corners. She said it has a smaller population and no state income tax and may not have the funding to monitor all those small and elusive bodies of water.

This story was produced by the Mountain West News Bureau, a collaboration between Wyoming Public Media, Boise State Public Radio in Idaho, KUER in Salt Lake City and KRCC and KUNC in Colorado.

Copyright 2020 Wyoming Public Radio. To see more, visit .

Melodie Edwards graduated with an MFA from the University of Michigan on Colby Fellowship where she received two Hopwood Awards in fiction and nonfiction. Glimmer Trainpublished “Si-Si-Gwa-D” in 2002 where it was one of the winners of their New Writers fiction contest. She has published stories in S outh Dakota Quarterly, North Dakota Review, Michigan Quarterly, Prairie Schooner, Crazyhorseand others. She is the recipient of the Doubleday Wyoming Arts Council Award for Women. “The Bird Lady” aired on NPR's Selected Shorts and Prairie Schoonernominated the story for a Pushcart Prize. She has a story upcoming in an anthology of animal stories, published by Ashland Creek Press. She is the author of "Hikes Around Fort Collins," now in its third printing. She is circulating Outlawry,a novel about archeology theft in the 1930's with publishing houses. She is currently working on a young adult trilogy about a secret society of crows and ravens.
Melodie Edwards
Phone: 307-766-2405