Identifying Waters of the United States

Learning Objectives:

  1. Learn definition of waters of the U.S.
  2. Practice applying the definitions of waters of the U.S.
  3. Update on policy shifts and legal fights over the definition of waters of the U.S. and learn to predict the future of waters of the U.S. definitions.

Your ability to identify whether a water body as a “water of the U.S.” has the potential to cost or save a project two of our favorite things; time and money. For example, if a project requires excavation of sediment from a pond and the pond is not a water of the U.S., then the project does not need a Section 404 permit. If a site is discharging fill to a ditch and that ditch also happens to be a water of the U.S. then you may be risking a cease and desist letter from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. The process to identify a water of the U.S. is complicated and can’t always be resolved without direct input from the Corps of Engineers. But there are seven simple concepts that will help you reach a conclusion for every water body you encounter. This webinar presents the fundamental tests for identifying waters of the U.S. and uses real world examples to demonstrate how to make that determination.

The 7 parts to the current federal definition of waters of the U.S. are explained through practical examples. Altered ditches, ponds, and tributaries present the greatest challenge when identifying waters of the U.S. and face the greatest uncertainty as the definition is altered to fit the Trump administration’s policy vision. Additional tools are demonstrated to teach you how to identify and classify waters of the U.S. for any clean water act program. Although the basics of defining waters of the U.S. are introduced, veterans will benefit from review of the fundamentals and will have a chance to test their determination skills.

Waters of the U.S. are not static. To stay on top of their definition, you must embrace the melodrama of legal and political wrangling over their definition. The Clean Water Rule is wounded and not likely to reemerge except under a narrow set of circumstances. A new definition of waters of the U.S. is anticipated by the current administration soon. After the 2017 executive order to focus on the Scalia interpretation of waters of the U.S., we reexamine Scalia’s writing on the subject. In the webinar conclusion, we predict the next chapter in what is expected to be a continuing drama defining which waters are protected under the Clean Water Act.

Last Updated: April 18, 2018

The International Erosion Control Association has met the standards and requirements of the Registered Continuing Education Program. Credit earned on completion of this program will be reported to RCEP. Certificates of completion will be issued to all participants. Complaints regarding registered providers may be addressed to RCEP at 1015 15th Street, NW, 8th Fl., Washington, DC, 20005. Website:

Credit Information

Activity Number Credit Amount Accreditation Period
IECA PDH Webinar 1 PDH from April 18, 2018