The Clean Water Act ensures that every American has access to clean drinking water by controlling toxic pollution at its source through permits and monitoring programs.
By keeping our waterways safe we can protect public health, fish and aquatic life, wildlife habitat, and recreational opportunities for generations to come.
Table of Contents
- What is the Clean Water Act?
- History of the Clean Water Act
- What Does the Clean Water Act Do?
- How Does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Enforce the CWA?
- What Are the Criticisms of the Clean Water Act?
- What are some of the challenges facing the Clean Water Act?
- Additional Information About the Clean Water Act
What is the Clean Water Act?
The Clean Water Act is a United States federal law that establishes the basic structure for regulating water pollution.
The act regulates the discharge of toxic pollutants into navigable waters, and sets limits on the amount of contaminants that can be present in those waters.
The act also provides funding for municipal wastewater and sewage treatment plants, and helps to finance state and local programs that improve water quality.
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is the department of the federal government responsible for maintaining these water quality standards and related pollution control programs.
History of the Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, and was a response to the growing awareness of water pollution and its effects on human health.
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act was passed in 1948, but it wasn’t until 1972 that this legislation was reorganized and expanded to become what we know today as the Clean Water Act.
At the time, there were no federal laws regulating water pollution, and many rivers and lakes were contaminated with dangerous industrial pollutants.
People were becoming more aware of the problems associated with water pollution, because of work by scientists and environmentalists.
Rachel Carson’s book “Silent Spring,” which was published in 1962, brought attention to the issue of water pollution and its effects on the environment.
The book raised public awareness of the problems associated with widespread environmental polution and helped to create support for the legislation that would become the Clean Water Act.
The act was amended in 1977 as well as 1987, and continues to be an important tool in the fight against polluted water.
The Safe Drinking Water Act was later released to regulate the quality of tap water in the United States.
What Does the Clean Water Act Do?
The Clean Water Act regulates the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters, which are defined as waters that are used for swimming, fishing, or other activities.
The act sets water quality criteria and limits on the amount of contaminants that can be present in those waters, and requires businesses and industries to obtain permits before they can discharge pollutants into navigable waters.
Currently, there are 65 toxic pollutants covered by the Clean Water Act.
The Clean Water Act is one of the most important pieces of environmental legislation in the United States, and has helped to significantly reduce water pollution.
How Does the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Enforce the CWA?
The EPA is responsible for enforcing the Clean Water Act, and works to ensure that businesses and industries comply with the act’s requirements.
The EPA also conducts research on water pollution, and develops programs designed to help reduce water pollution.
The agency has a number of enforcement tools at its disposal, including fines, civil penalties, and criminal sanctions against organizations that pollute surface waters.
The EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program controls discharges through required permits.
What Are the Criticisms of the Clean Water Act?
While the Clean Water Act has been successful in reducing water pollution, it has been criticized for being too complex and expensive.
Critics also argue that the act does not do enough to protect groundwater resources, while focusing only on surface waters.
Some claim that it gives too much power to the EPA to address water pollution and set wastewater standards and regulations.
What are some of the challenges facing the Clean Water Act?
One of the biggest challenges facing the Clean Water Act is funding. The act provides funding for municipal wastewater treatment plants, but many states and localities are struggling to finance their own water quality improvement programs.
In addition, climate change is expected to impact the availability and quality of our nation’s water resources, which could put even more strain on the existing infrastructure.
Despite these challenges, the Clean Water Act remains an important law that helps to protect our nation’s waters from pollution. With continued support, the act will continue to play a vital role in protecting our water resources.
Additional Information About the Clean Water Act
If you have any questions about the Clean Water Act, or if you would like more information about water pollution and its effects on human health, please visit the EPA’s website at: https://www.epa.gov/laws-regulations/summary-clean-water-act.
You can also find the full text of the Clean Water Act on the EPA web site.