By Nancy Stoner
This year, I had the pleasure of celebrating the 4th of July with my family at Rehoboth Beach, Deleware The weather was beautiful, and the beach was alive with children, teenagers, and families of all kinds of backgrounds, speaking all kinds of languages enjoying themselves in the cool, clean water.
I loved watching everyone have a good time body surfing, kayaking, wading, watching the dolphins, and running back and forth with the waves—a favorite activity of the 5-and-under crowd. In this struggling economy, it was also reassuring to see hotels, motels, restaurants, and shops bustling with activity from tourists like me. In fact, beach tourism pumps more than $300 billion into the U.S. economy every year.
For me, what also makes visiting beaches so great is that they are a free resource, available to everyone and easily accessible via train, plane, car, bus, bike, or foot. As a mother and a beach goer, I understand the importance of clean water as a resource that is vital to our communities and our health. That’s why EPA has been working closely with state and local officials to reduce pollution at local beaches. This year alone, the agency has provided nearly $10 million in beach monitoring grants.
Still, we can only continue to protect our beaches if we also protect the upstream waters, including small streams and wetlands, from pollution that would otherwise flow to the beaches. To achieve that goal, on April 27, 2011, EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers proposed for public comment, a guidance document that reaffirms protection for critical waters and provides clearer, more predictable guidelines for determining which water bodies are protected by the Clean Water Act.
This “Waters of the United States” guidance is based on science and makes common sense: Protecting the smallest water sources is the best and most cost-effective way to protect the larger bodies of waters that they flow into.
Do your part to ensure the protection of our waters for future generations: Submit your comments on our draft guidance between now and July 31st. And when you’ve done that, visit the EPA’s beach page for updates on your local beaches so you can enjoy a healthy and safe summer!
For more information on EPA Beach Grants, please visit
About the author: Nancy Stoner is the Acting Assistant Administrator for the EPA’s Office of Water and grew up in the flood plain of the South River, a tributary of the Shenandoah River.
Editor’s Note: The opinions expressed in Greenversations are those of the author. They do not reflect EPA policy, endorsement, or action, and EPA does not verify the accuracy or science of the contents of the blog.