This week we celebrate the achievements of the Clean Water Act as it reaches a 40 year milestone. Through the early decades of the 20th Century, rivers, lakes, estuaries and coastal waters had become gravely threatened by pollution from unchecked industrial sources and outdated and inadequate wastewater treatment infrastructure. Countless waterways across the country were so polluted they were unfit for any purpose. The impact of this unchecked pollution reached a undeniable crisis moment when the Cuyahoga River caught fire in Cleveland in 1969. The dramatic sight of these burning waters certainly provided a strong impetus for future legislation.
American citizens then pressured Congress to act to protect our water resources. This advocacy led to the Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments of 1972, a landmark expansion of previous provisions to protect the nation’s water resources. The Clean Water Act, as these Amendments came to be known, have led to tremendous progress in the restoration of America’s waters.
While much has been accomplished, there is always more to be done to protect our water resources. EPA's website concludes "many challenges remain and we must work together to protect clean water for our families and future generations. Everyone has an impact on the water and we are all responsible for making a difference. Water is worth it."
Resources for further reading:
The EPA Clean Water Act 40th Anniversary Page
EPA's Summary of the Clean Water Act
History of Water Quality Standards
University of Wisconsin Water Resources Institute
My Clean Water Act Advocacy
EPA Information for Kids