EPA advances tribal water quality rule

By Miranda Willson | 06/24/2024 01:21 PM EDT

The rule, which would help close the gap in water quality standards on Native American reservations, faces potential legal challenges.

A woman attaches a hose to a water pump to fill tanks in her truck outside a tribal office on the Navajo reservation

Raynelle Hoskie attaches a hose to a water pump to fill tanks in her truck outside a tribal office in the Navajo Nation in Tuba City, Arizona, on April 20, 2020. The Biden administration is working to finalize a rule setting water quality standards on tribal lands. Carolyn Kaster/AP

The Biden administration is preparing to set water standards for rivers, streams and lakes on hundreds of Native American reservations for the first time, a move welcomed by tribes as key for safeguarding natural resources.

EPA proposed a rule last spring to establish “baseline” water quality standards for the majority of tribes that do not already have standards of their own. The standards already exist in every state and are the foundation of efforts to control pollution from wastewater treatment plants, energy projects, and manufacturing and chemical industries.

The White House Office of Management and Budget began reviewing a final version of the rule Friday, according to a notice posted that day. EPA expects to issue a final rule later this year.


Under the Clean Water Act, water quality standards aim to ensure that water bodies are safe for swimming, fishing, aquatic life and other potential uses. States set those standards, subject to EPA oversight.