We all need clean water. Idahoans rely on Idaho's lakes, rivers and streams for healthy families, prosperous businesses and recreation. In 2009 and 2010, Gov. Otter and Idaho's legislators cut the Department of Environmental Quality funding for collecting field data and other efforts to keep our water clean.
It is far easier and cheaper to keep our water clean than to try to clean it up after it is polluted. Clean water monitoring costs each Idahoan less than 30 cents per year. Cutting funding for clean water protection is a risky way to manage our most important resource, leaving Idaho businesses and families vulnerable.
DEQ will have very limited data in 2012 and will be unable to demonstrate justification of any water quality decision made, from putting streams on the state list of polluted streams required by the Clean Water Act to taking them off that list when they are clean. Without up-to-date water quality data, revisions or updates to water quality standards are not defensible and open to costly legal challenges under the Clean Water Act. This will also significantly impact businesses' ability to receive or modify National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits for Idaho waters.
In the last few months, the Environmental Protection Agency has fined three Clean Water Act violators in Idaho. In the last year, the state has spent tens of millions of federal and state taxpayer dollars to clean up polluted waters in Idaho. Many cities throughout the state are looking for solutions through pollutant trading programs, which are supported through monitoring data and the NPDES program.
This session, our legislators and the governor must come up with a way to restore funding for clean water in Idaho in the upcoming budget cycle. Clean water is too important to take for granted.