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Chris Espinosa

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Drink up and Clean up Our Waters

Posted: 09/20/2013 3:06 pm

As part of her campaign against childhood obesity, First Lady Michelle Obama is telling the American people to make healthy choices. The latest push in her admirable drive for a healthier America is called "Drink Up." In this campaign, Mrs. Obama is telling the American public to make one simple little change in our lives: Drink more water.

"Drink just one more glass of water a day, and you can make a real difference for your health, your energy and the way you feel," the First Lady said.

"Water is the simplest, most accessible choice that people can make if they're trying to make a healthy choice," her campaign chief Sam Kass explained.

While sound advice if your water is clean, the disturbing truth is that many of our drinking water sources here in the U.S. are dirty, contaminated, and not fit for public consumption.

The debate around the "Drink Up" campaign and the health benefits of drinking more water misses the bigger question of whether our waters here in the United States are actually fit for drinking. This is a question that has concerned many Americans for years. Just two years ago, a Gallup nationwide poll revealed that a whopping 77 percent of Americans are worried about pollution in their drinking water.

And rightly so. Fifty-five percent of our streams and rivers are in poor condition, and recent EPA studies have shown that the problem of dirty and contaminated water in the U.S. is just getting worse.

While the First Lady goes on tour to launch her campaign, communities across the country are fighting to protect their clean water sources so that they can safely "drink up."

In Florida, communities have been rallying for action to contain the toxic algae blooms breaking out at record levels across their waterways. In the Midwest, NASA satellites show growing dead zones of toxic algae blooms in the Great Lakes, which supply water to 26 million people. In Appalachia, mountaintop removal mining is polluting streams and contaminating families' water sources. And across America, extreme energy extraction methods such as fracking threaten the water supplies for many of us.

Thanks to a dirty water policy adopted by the previous administration, more than 59 percent of U.S. streams and 20 million acres of wetlands are unprotected from toxic dumping and pollution today. They have been cut out from protection of the Clean Water Act, even though they supply drinking water to 117 million Americans and 5,646 public water systems.

But there is hope. There are real policy solutions available to us that will help clean up and protect our waterways. Earlier this week, after years of inaction and unnecessary delay, the EPA and U.S. Army Corps of Engineers submitted one such solution to the White House for review. This draft rule, dubbed the 'Waters of the U.S.' rule, takes into consideration the current state-of-the-art peer reviewed science reflected in a science report just released, and would restore key protections to many of our nation's waterways. It is now up to President Obama's Office of Management and Budget (OMB) to move this important rule forward and restore key Clean Water Act protections, or let it die on the vine and sacrifice waters across America for unchecked dumping and pollution.

The state of waters in our nation is a problem that deserves serious attention. Water is life, and what's in our water glass is just as important as how many times a day we raise it. The president should immediately finalize the Waters of the U.S. rule and begin the work of cleaning up our waterways so that all Americans can feel safe drinking up.

 
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