Daily Archives: October 18, 2012

Clean Water Act 101

The Clean Water Act:  Protecting and Restoring our Nation’s Waters

Forty years ago, in the midst of a national concern about untreated sewage, industrial and toxic discharges, destruction of wetlands, and contaminated runoff, the principal law to protect the nation’s waters was passed. Originally enacted in 1948 to control water pollution primarily based on state and local efforts, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, or Clean Water Act (CWA), was totally revised in 1972 to give the Act its current shape. The CWA set a new national goal “to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation’s waters”, with interim goals that all waters be fishable and swimmable where possible. The Act embodied a new federal-state partnership, where federal guidelines, objectives and limits were to be set under the authority of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, while states, territories and authorized tribes would largely administer and enforce the CWA programs, with significant federal technical and financial assistance. The Act also gave citizens a strong role to play in protecting and restoring waters.
The CWA specifies that all discharges into the nation’s waters are unlawful unless authorized by a permit and sets baseline, across-the-board technology-based controls for municipalities and industry. It requires all dischargers to meet additional, stricter pollutant controls where needed to meet water quality targets and requires federal approval of these standards. It also protects wetlands by requiring “dredge and fill” permits. The CWA authorizes federal financial assistance to states and municipalities to help achieve these national water goals. The Act has robust enforcement provisions and gives citizens a strong role to play in watershed protection. Congress has revised the Act, most notably in 1987, where it established a comprehensive program for controlling toxic pollutants and stormwater discharges, directed states to develop and implement voluntary nonpoint pollution management programs, and encouraged states to pursue groundwater protection. Notwithstanding these improvements, the 1972 statute, its regulatory provisions and the institutions that were created 40 years ago, still make up the bulk of the framework for protecting and restoring the nation’s rivers, streams, lakes, wetlands and coastal waters. (Link opens in a pop-up window)

Extensive information can be viewed at http://water.epa.gov/action/cleanwater40/cwa101.cfm.

Today is the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

2012 marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the nation’s law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource. Every person deserves clean water – it is vital for our health, communities, environment and economy. We have made great progress in reducing pollution during the past 40 years. But 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.

For a current account of what people all over the country are doing to safe-guard our nation’s water, visit this excellent webpage of the EPA:


Wildlife Adversely Affected by Habitat Conversion to Plant Commodity Crops

Songbirds, ducks and several at-risk species, such as swift foxes, mountain plovers, sage grouse and lesser prairie chickens, all need wetlands and grasslands to survive. But under the unlimited and unregulated crop insurance subsidies much of their habitat has been converted to cropland—with more to come if Congress passes the proposals on the pending 2012 Farm Bill. 
More than 23 million acres of wildlife habitat were converted to plant commodity crops between 2008 and 2011, according to Plowed Under, a new report by Defenders of Wildlife and the Environmental Working Group (EWG) that analyzes U.S. Department of Agriculture satellite data. The losses were greatest in counties that received the largest amounts of crop insurance subsidies. In addition, the pollution in these areas from chemicals and fertilizers also leads scientists to worry that the pressure on wildlife will only increase.
Defenders is partnering with EWG to push legislators to require farmers to protect wetlands, grasslands and soil on their land before they receive federal subsidies. 
For more: www.defenders.org/plowedunder