The Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA) water rule passed a crucial test yesterday, gaining the approval of the agency’s internal review board.   EPA is proposing to expand its jurisdiction to include small rivers and streams that flow into larger sources of water.  EPA’s Science Advisory Board noted in a peer review of the rule that there is “strong scientific support” for the agency’s proposed Waters of the United States regulation.

The panel reviewed the EPA’s draft report on the connectivity of waterways around the country.”Relatively low levels of connectivity can be meaningful in terms of impacts on the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of downstream waters,” the advisory board wrote.

Environmental groups say the rule is needed to protect the nation’s water sources from contamination, but those opposed say it would be unduly expensive to comply with, particularly for farmers.

The EPA proposed the rule in April. The advisory board said it is “grounded in current science,” but offered several recommendations to clarify the rule and improve transparency. “The report should also clearly indicate that the definitions used for rivers, streams, and wetlands are scientific, rather than legal or regulatory definitions,” the board wrote.

The public has until November 14 to comment on the proposed rule.