Opinion: Protecting Clean Water For Our Families, Communities And Businesses

When I was 10, my father would take us kids to Bakersfield every day in the summertime to pick fruits and vegetables. We’d then sell those watermelons and oranges in East L.A. That experience was the start of my entrepreneurialism, and it sparked my concern for our environment. I believe it is important that our government protect clean water, which is essential for our families, communities, and businesses.

The “Waters of the US” rule clears up that confusion by safeguarding the sources of our water supplies and ensures every community and every American is again entitled to clean water.

- Ruben Guerra

In Los Angeles County, approximately one-third of our drinking water comes from the San Gabriel Mountains, which is a key reason why there is strong congressional and community support to permanently protect the San Gabriel Mountains and watershed.

Throughout the state of California, we have a tragic history of inequity when it comes to clean water. For many Latino communities especially, industrial pollution and water contamination is pervasive. Ensuring all people can access safe drinking water is an American value and the driving force behind the community-led “Human Right to Water” law in California, which said, “Every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.”

A new rule from the Obama Administration continues these efforts to protect our clean water.Called “Waters of the US” the proposed new rule from the Environmental Protection Agency was announced March 25 after years of study and consultation. If enacted, the rule would protect the streams that flow into our rivers, farms, and drinking water supplies from toxic pollution. It clarifies that these headwaters streams and wetlands are again entitled to protection under the Clean Water Act.

For years, uncertainty about which bodies of water are protected by law created loopholes that put our clean water supplies at risk. Several confusing Supreme Court rulings meant no protection from pollution for the headwaters streams and wetlands that provide drinking water for 1 in 3 Americans.

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The “Waters of the US” rule clears up that confusion by safeguarding the sources of our water supplies and ensures every community and every American is again entitled to clean water.

Latino farmers and farmworkers depend on clean water and sustainable farming practices to produce healthy food. Clean water is critical for businesses that manufacture goods, and those that simply provide clean water for their employees’ morning coffee. It is perhaps most important to have clean water for our families, and the riverside parks and waterways where our children play.

For the Latin Business Association and the 800,000 Latino-owned businesses we represent, the rule simply makes sense. Business depends on certainty – whether you are selling watermelons or widgets. This rule provides certainty for businesses that need to know where the reach of the law begins and ends, and that the source of their water supplies will be protected.

The public has been invited to comment on the rule through the end of July. I urge the Obama administration to finalize this rule and protect clean water for us all.

Ruben Guerra is Chairman and CEO of the Latin Business Association, the nation's largest Latino business trade organization. He also serves as Vice Chairman of the California Water Coalition.

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