Clean Water Drives Economic Growth

In this photo photo taken Thursday, May 12, 2011, shows the Columbia River near Corbett, Ore. The manager of most of the elec
In this photo photo taken Thursday, May 12, 2011, shows the Columbia River near Corbett, Ore. The manager of most of the electricity in the Pacific Northwest is running such a surplus of power from hydroelectric dams that it put wind farms on notice Friday they may be shut down as early as this weekend. A cold, wet spring in the headwaters of the Columbia River Basin is sending downstream one of the largest spring flows in years. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer)

Two decades ago, my hometown waterway of Boston Harbor was known as the dirtiest harbor in America. Raw sewage and industrial pollution made fishing and swimming risky at best, and impossible at worst. But today, thanks to cleanup efforts spurred by the Clean Water Act, it's one of the most visited places in New England, and one of the best spots for recreation.

We know clean water is a health priority, but it's also an economic necessity. Our communities, schools, businesses, and farms can't run without it. A cleaner Boston Harbor has meant higher property values, more shipping, and more jobs. In 2012, more than 50,000 jobs in Boston were tied to port activity -- from cargo and seafood processing to cruises and harbor tours.

Today at the Water Environment Federation's annual Technical Exhibition and Conference in New Orleans, I'll make the case that the Clean Water Act isn't just an environmental success story -- it's one of America's greatest economic triumphs. All across the country, protecting clean water has meant growing the economy.

Unfortunately, 60 percent of our nation's streams and millions of acres of wetlands currently lack clear protection from pollution under the Clean Water Act.

To have clean water downstream in our rivers and lakes -- and enjoy the economic growth clean water brings -- we need healthy headwaters upstream. In fact, a recent survey found that 80 percent of U.S. small business owners favor including small streams and headwaters in federal clean water protections, because every business in America needs clean water to thrive.

That's why this March, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers issued a proposal to fix the problem. We're protecting those streams and wetlands vital to downstream water quality -- which also protects local economies.

The public comment period for our proposal is open until October 20, and public input will help us reach a strong, achievable final rule. I encourage you to watch this video to learn more: