Vermont Conservation Voters

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Clean Water

Clean water is essential to Vermonters’ health, economy, and way of life. Healthy waters underpin our tourism and recreation economies, thriving businesses, our favorite paddling, swimming, and fishing holes, and safe drinking water. Sadly, water pollution in Vermont is resulting in problems such as pervasive cyanobacteria blooms and contaminated drinking water supplies. Polluted water has put the health of Vermonters at risk, decreased property values, and threatened Vermont’s vital tourist economy.

Water quality in Lake Champlain, for example, has been a serious problem for decades. In 2015, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) – as a result of lawsuits to protect the Lake brought by the Conservation Law Foundation (CLF) – required Vermont to ramp up its efforts to cut pollution and clean up Lake Champlain. Specifically, EPA ordered Vermont to develop a revised total maximum daily load (TMDL) clean up plan. The passage of Vermont’s Clean Water Act (Act 64) in 2015 was a major part of Vermont’s commitment to EPA under the revised TMDL. Act 64 included new regulations, better enforcement tools, and interim funding for water quality. Act 64 applies to waters statewide because, unfortunately, Lake Champlain is one of many impaired waters across the state. For example, EPA recently approved a new TMDL requiring clean up of Lake Memphremagog.

Fundamental to the successful implementation of Vermont’s Clean Water Act (Act 64), TMDLs, and other laws essential to meeting Vermont’s Water Quality Standards, is the successful implementation of our existing pollution regulations – including strong enforcement of those laws – as well as increased investment. New funding is needed to implement on-the-ground projects essential to reducing pollution from farms, roads, developed lands, and forests.

With farms being the single biggest contributor, we need special attention on ensuring our regulations are strong enough, and that they are being adequately enforced. We support moving enforcement of agricultural water requirements to the department of Environmental Conservation (DEC); as well as developing regulations on tile drains; and funding innovative practices on farms, such as supporting farmers seeking to transition to organic and regenerative practices.

To meet our obligations and safeguard public health and the Vermont brand, we propose establishing a non-political, publicly accountable Clean Water Authority to set budgets, collect revenue, and get money on the ground for prioritized clean water projects across the state. Simultaneously, we are calling on lawmakers to authorize a long-term, dedicated funding source that adequately invests in our water cleanup efforts.

2018 Legislative Priorities: