I never expected that I would be a tribute writer, but recently that’s how its panned out (I hope you read my posts on Silent Spring, and Russell Train). In this latest tribute, last week, the Clean Water Act turned 40!
There’s no doubt that the Clean Water Act has led to cleaner watersheds and reduced pollution in our nation’s waters. To date, 65% of our nation’s waters are swimmable and fishable (that’s the Act’s classifications). What many don’t know is that the Clean Water Act was passed through amendments to the Federal Pollution Control Act of 1948, and it was a result of several disasters such as the famous burning of Ohio’s Cuyahoga River.
One of the goals of the Clean Water Act was for all the nation’s waterways to be fishable and swimmable by 1985. News flash, we haven’t met that goal. The Act gave authority to the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and to states to set pollution control standards to restore and monitor water quality. One of the greatest aspects of the Act is that it allows public citizens to file suit on violators of the Act. Many people don’t know this! I’ve heard from EPA officials that the Clean Water Act is the people’s act. Our nation’s waterways belong to us.
A few successes of the Clean Water Act include better overall water quality to over 60% of the nation’s waterways, more waterways that are swimmable, and restoration of major waterways such as the Hudson and Cuyahoga Rivers and Lake Erie. I think the OMB article only touched on a few of the Act’s successes and I’m sure you can do a Google search and find more info. Although I only like to highlight positive sustainable practices in my posts, I think it’s only fair to highlight that there are future challenges ahead for the Clean Water Act. Factors such as population growth and urban development have led to runoff mismanagement, particularly water from wet weather events, that are not addressed in the Clean Water Act. Wastewater in natural gas fracturing (fracking) wells are also not included in the Act. Just today I heard that this current Congress has posed approximately 200 attacks on the Clean Water Act.
But, this is a tribute, and clean water will win.
There are so many great on-the-ground partnerships taking on water issues, a few that come to mind include The Urban Waters Federal Partnership, Groundworks USA, and the River Network. Those who question and attack the Act must not want fishable and swimmable waters for their families. Maybe they just take it for granted, I think that’s the case. Cheers to 40 years of success and to another 40 years of greater success. Now go for a swim!