Trump's budget cuts are an 'attack' on clean water

Danita Delimont | Gallo Images | Getty Images

Memorial Day weekend marks the start of the summer season. Nothing says "summer" like getting outdoors and enjoying clean water. That means Americans will head to local rivers for fishing excursions, to our favorite lakes for a refreshing swim, or to the beach to ride the waves and soak up the last of the sun.

Additionally, millions of us rely on waterways like the Great Lakes for clean drinking water. These waterways even help drive our local economy.

Our rivers and lakes are essential to our quality of life. That's why we should be doing everything we can to protect them.

President Trump's proposed budget for 2018 would dramatically cut or eliminate funding for programs helping to clean up iconic waterways like the San Francisco Bay, Puget Sound, and Great Lakes.

The significance of these cuts becomes clear when considering that the Great Lakes alone holds one-fifth of the Earth's available fresh surface water, and enough to cover all the United States in more than 9.5 feet of water.

"Our rivers and lakes are essential to our quality of life. That's why we should be doing everything we can to protect them."

The budget also cuts millions of dollars from an EPA program that helps farmers to curb runoff pollution from their farms. Runoff from farms leads to dangerous algae blooms suppresses oxygen levels in water bodies and harms wildlife. This could make it harder for us to enjoy our waterways in the summers to come.

Here in New York, for example, the Department of Environmental Conservation relies on federal funding for almost 20% of its operating budget. Trump wants to eliminate millions of dollars from the EPA's budget for environmental enforcement, which means less water testing at beaches, parks, and rivers. It also means less funding to make sure raw sewage isn't getting into our waterways. What's more, these cuts will put drinking water at risk.

The good news this Memorial Day weekend is that there are a lot of people across the country who don't agree with these attacks on clean water. A broad coalition of clean water advocates, farmers, mayors, health professionals, small businesses, and tens of thousands of New Yorkers and Americans have stood up for clean water, and now we need Congress to join us.

In the face of all these attacks on clean water, it's critical that Congress sides with clean water over the polluters this summer, so that the EPA has the necessary funding to make sure that our lakes and streams remain protected for all Americans to enjoy for many summers to come.

Commentary by Heather Leibowitz, Esq., director of Environment New York, a statewide advocacy organization.

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