A number of federal and state laws have been enacted to ensure that water meets minimum quality standards. Drinking water is subject to the most stringent standards and is exclusively governed by the federal Safe Drinking Water Act (42 USC 300f). Discharges of pollutants into waterways, as well as incidental and accidental contamination of water resources, may be subject to the federal Clean Water Act (33 USC 26) as well as a number of state laws.
Laws that require environmental and wildlife protection may also impact water uses by requiring a minimum water quality necessary to maintain habitat. These laws often apply to activities occurring on land that degrade water quality by causing erosion or other incidental contamination.
Lastly, common law property rights provide some protection against harmful contamination under the nuisance doctrine. In general, one person’s use of their property cannot interfere with another person’s property rights. Under some circumstances, an activity that interferes with another’s property rights can be halted or prevented. In other circumstances, the person causing the interference may be legally responsible for any damage.
Walla Walla lawyer Andrea Burkhart is experienced in many different water law issues.