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Why the American West is fighting for water protections

Not all rivers and streams are protected under the Trump administration’s new definition of “water.”

Laura Bult came to the video team via Vox’s Netflix show, Explained , and previously worked on documentary series for National Geographic and Zero Point Zero Production.

Since the Clean Water Act passed in 1972, the assumption has been that all waterways are protected from pollution — meaning that rivers, streams, lakes, and wetlands are, by law, shielded from industrial and agricultural waste through a strict permitting process via the federal government.

But the Trump administration has managed to successfully chip away at environmental protections in the US, including actions like 2020’s implementation of the Navigable Waters Protection Rule. The rule redefined which waterways are under the jurisdiction of and protected by the Clean Water Act, omitting many wetlands and non-perennial water sources, which means some areas of the country are impacted more than others.

In the video above, we focus on the impact in New Mexico, where most rivers and streams have been stripped of their protections in a state that has no local regulations to stand in for the Clean Water Act.

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