Endangered Species Act

Endangered Species Act

[This article, written by the American Ground Water Trust was originally published in



Endangered Species Act

Did you know that the Endangered Species Act (EDA) was adopted in 1973 as a law to protect plant and animal species believed to be on the brink of extinction?   There were 109 species listed in 1973. Thirty years later (2003) there are more than 1,200 Endangered Species on the list, with 250 additional species considered as “candidates” for listing and nearly 4,000 species designated as “species of concern.”   Some 306 species (25% of the listed species in the United States) have designated critical habitat. Since 1973 only 25 domestic species have been “de-listed” or removed from the Endangered Species list.


What has this got to do will water wells?  Many of the nation’s Endangered Species have an aquatic habitat.  The hydrologic system is integrated so that rivers, lakes, wetlands and ground water are often closely interconnected.  Just as humans are sensitive to deterioration of water quality and overuse of resources, so too are aquatic animals and plants sensitive to contamination and to changes in the hydrology of their habitats.  Over-pumping of ground water, and any type of environmental degradation not only can have detrimental effects for human water users but can, (and does) impact plant and animal species.


Actions that threaten habitat of endangered species may carry strong penalties. The EDA has had a major impact on construction and economic development and its implementation continues to be controversial.  In some instances environmental groups bring lawsuits to force the Fish & Wildlife Service to designate critical habitat designation.  The Service is also faced (principally by the private sector) with litigation challenging the critical habitat determinations that it does make.


Cause and effect related to land use changes can have impacts throughout the hydrologic system.  If you are proposing new development related to water wells or waste water disposal – it might be a good idea to check that you won’t be impacting some little critter or flower that is listed as Endangered.


For more information about the ESA visit http://endangered.fws.gov/


[© American Ground Water Trust.  This article may be reprinted for non-commercial educational purposes provided it is used in its entirety and that reference is made to its source as an article in THE AMERICAN WELL OWNER, 2003, Number 2]