Supreme Court to Decide on Wetlands

800 451 Stroud Water Research Center
United States Supreme Court Building exterior

The Future of the Clean Water Act Hinges on an Upcoming Supreme Court Case

Dear Friend of the Stroud Center,

As we celebrate the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the stage is set for a landmark decision on its future. The law, which granted federal protection of waters of the United States, is the subject of a Supreme Court hearing scheduled for October, nearly 50 years to the day since its 1972 passage.

The question presented in Sackett v. EPA is this: “Whether the Ninth Circuit set forth the proper test for determining whether wetlands are ‘waters of the United States’ under the Clean Water Act.”

At issue is the degree to which a wetland is connected to navigable waters and their tributaries. The court’s decision will ultimately define the Clean Water Act’s jurisdiction over wetlands.

What scientists at Stroud Water Research Center have discovered — at least since publishing the now famous River Continuum Concept — is how water doesn’t always recognize human boundaries, that it connects more than it divides.

The Stroud Center showed how waters connect when our scientists provided expert testimony for the Department of Justice in U.S. v. Donovan. The wetland then in question had physical, chemical, and biological connections to (and thus, effects on) an adjacent tributary to the Smyrna River, which empties into the Delaware Bay, the researchers found after studying the site. Considering this testimony and others, an appellate court ruled that the wetland was indeed subject to the Clean Water Act.

Our work informed a case that upheld protections for water quality under the Clean Water Act. You, supporting our research, made that possible.

In the July 2022 issue of UpStream Newsletter, we share with you a feature published in our latest annual report: “Breaking the Fall: How the Clean Water Act Changed the Trajectory of America’s Waterways and Became a Beacon for Freshwater Science.”

As you read about our past success and ongoing work, I hope you will continue to help us protect clean fresh water today and for generations to come.

Yours in freshwater stewardship,
Diane Huskinson
Communications Manager and Editor

Sunset over a California wetland with mountains in the distance.