Oct 19, 2012

40 Years of the Clean Water Act: Impact on U.S. Waterways

American Rivers outlines successes and future of the Clean Water Act

Clean Water Act 40 Anniversary American Rivers

American Rivers has experts in Washington, D.C. and around the country available for comment on stories about the Clean Water Act, and about challenges and opportunities facing rivers and river communities.

The Clean Water Act was passed in 1972 to protect and restore the health of the nation’s waters so that rivers, lakes and streams would be safe for drinking, swimming, fishing and boating.

Thanks to the Clean Water Act, the U.S. has made great strides towards cleaning up its waterways:

  • The Clean Water Act revolutionized thinking about water pollution—making discharges into waters illegal unless authorized by a permit to control that pollution.
  • Chemical and industrial pollution has significantly decreased.
  • The loss of wetlands—which naturally filter pollution and prevent flooding—has been reduced by three-fourths.

Despite these successes, the U.S. still has a long way to go when it comes to ensuring clean water for all:

  • Polluted runoff—water that runs off the land, picks up pollutants and flows into rivers, lakes and streams—remains a growing source of pollution in communities nationwide.
  • Every year more than 860 billion gallons of untreated sewage are discharged into U.S. waters through sewer overflows.
  • Polluters and their allies in Congress continue to try to undermine the Clean Water Act’s protections that safeguard public health and the health of the nation's rivers.

“Every American deserves clean water. We have a responsibility to leave a legacy of healthy rivers and clean water supplies for our children and grandchildren,” said Bob Irvin, president of American Rivers.