Nicholas Thomas

Our Campaigns

Environmental Defense: Our Water

Goal: To protect Texas’s waterways from runoff pollution, flooding, and drought by holding polluters accountable and advocating for nature-based infrastructure.
Decades ago, some people thought polluted rivers and streams were the price we had to pay for progress. That’s not a world we have to live in anymore, nor is it the future our children deserve. Yet in Texas, two thirds of freshwater sites and nearly half of all our beaches were too polluted to safely swim in on at least one testing day in 2017. We deserve better, and luckily, nature-based infrastructure can help.  Here in Texas, we are advocating for the increased use of rain gardens, green roofs, wetlands and other nature-based infrastructure features which can prevent water pollution, mitigate flooding, ease drought, reduce urban heat and make our communities more beautiful. Learn more about our work below.
  • <h4>IN DEFENSE OF OUR WATER: THE EPA</h4><h5>In 2017, we helped block President Trump’s move to end critical EPA clean water programs. Now we’re working to stop the president and Congress from slashing more funds for clean water.</h5><em>US DOI photo</em>
  • <h4>CLEAN WATER RULE</h4><h5>In 2015, we helped restore protection to nearly 2 million miles of streams, which help provide drinking water to 1 in 3 Americans. Now we have to stop the Trump administration from repealing the Clean Water Rule.</h5><em>Sean Kennedy</em>
  • <h4>YOUR ENVIRONMENTAL WATCHDOG</h4><h5>Our Washington, D.C., team is watching the White House, Congress and regulatory agencies for any attempt to roll back protections for our water, our public lands, our coasts or our climate.</h5><em>Dokaspar, CC-BY-SA-3.0</em>
Runoff pollution in Texas

Our State’s waterways, from Barton Creek to Galveston Bay, are the pride of Texas communities. They provide the water we drink, the rivers where we kayak, and the banks along which we play.

Unfortunately, runoff pollution threatens our water. The concrete jungle of development prevents rainwater from soaking into the ground, forcing it to run over roofs and roads, picking up oil, toxic chemicals, litter and animal waste. When this polluted water reaches our waterways it makes us sick and threatens the habitat of our wildlife.

The solution to runoff pollution is nature-based infrastructure, including rain gardens, green roofs, and the conservation of natural spaces. These techniques allow rainwater to soak into the ground, filtering out pollution, slowing floods, reducing erosion, and restoring our aquifers. Texas can use these features to protect our waterways. That’s why we’re calling on Texan communities to increase the use of nature-based infrastructure statewide: through innovative municipal policy, statewide research, and private development leadership. To protect our clean water, let’s use the best tools we have.

Nature-based infrastructure

Nature-based Infrastructure imitates nature by allowing rainwater to slow down, and soak in to local soil. This prevents water pollution while mitigating floods, combating drought, and reducing urban heat. Common examples include rain gardens, green roofs, permeable surfaces and rainwater harvesting.

The benefits of nature based systems include:

  • Improving water quality. Stormwater systems can trap between 45 and 99 percent of solid pollutants.
  • Mitigating flooding. Nature-based systems can absorb between 50 and 90 percent of rainfall and have the potential to fully prevent flooding from less severe storms.
  • Preventing drought. Allowing rainfall to soak into local soils replenishes aquifers easing droughts later on.
  • Reducing urban heat. Green areas of cities absorb more heat reducing summer temperatures by 10-15 degrees.
  • Removing greenhouse gases from the atmosphere. Trees and green roofs can capture hundreds of pounds of carbon dioxide over their lifetimes.
  • Preventing toxic algae blooms. Filtering out pollutants decreases the amount of nutrient laden runoff that enters local waterways reducing the risk of toxic algae blooms.
  • Beautifying the landscape. Projects add greenspace to our communities, improving the quality of life.
The EPA's Clean Water Programs

President Trump has called for deep cuts to the EPA budget, cuts that could mean:

  • More companies dump more waste in our water, as federal environmental cops are taken off the clean water beat.
  • Larger dead zones in the Chesapeake Bay, Long Island Sound, the Great Lakes, Puget Sound and other waters, as grants to state and regional clean water cleanup and restoration programs are slashed.
  • More havoc wreaked in coastal communities, more sewage overflows, and more toxic waste spilled as efforts to protect against storm surges and rising seas stall.

The way we see it, it’s simply wrong to vote against clean water. It should also be a career-ending move. That’s why we’re helping the public connect the votes of their members in Congress with the health of the local waterways they care about most. In 2017, that kind of public outcry blocked the Trump administration’s move to eliminate funds for the Great Lakes Restoration Initiative and similar programs.

Fishing in Lake Michigan, Grand Haven, Michigan.
Nick Olejniczak
The Clean Water Rule: Protecting 2 million miles of streams

The Clean Water Rule protects nearly 2 million miles of America’s streams, which help provide drinking water for 1 in 3 Americans.

The rule also protects millions of acres of wetlands that provide wildlife habitat and keep pollutants out of waterways from the Great Lakes to the Chesapeake Bay to Puget Sound.

We helped lead the coalition that won the Obama administration’s approval of the rule in 2015. More than 800,000 Americans—including more than 1,000 business owners, local officials, farmers, doctors and nurses—supported the rule.  

In July 2017, EPA Administrator Scott Pruitt proposed to repeal the rule in a move that Environment Texas’s John Rumpler said, defied “sound science, common sense and the will of the American people.”

We can block the repeal of this vital clean water protection. But it’s going to take a three-part bankshot to win.

  • First, we’ll urge the public to show their support for the Clean Water Rule during EPA public comment periods.
  • Next, if EPA ignores the public support for clean water, we’ll challenge the rollback of the rule in court.
  • Third, some in Congress are moving to make it impossible to defend the clean water rule in court. We need just a few more votes in the Senate to stop them.
Stay up to date on the latest rollbacks

We’re keeping an eye out for other attempts to turn back the clock on clean water protection. To keep informed, sign up for our email, follow us on Facebook, or connect with us on Twitter.