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The Clean Water Act Turns 40

Monica Mosure

October 17, 2012

Less than one percent of water on Earth is available fresh water.  We use this water to drink, water crops, raise fish to eat, and for overall enjoyment.  Playing a vital role in our everyday lives, it is important that we all work to keep our waters cleans and healthy.


To ensure our nation’s present and future water quality, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) created the Clean Water Act in 1972. 


Tomorrow, October 18, we celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Act. Centered on controlling various forms of water pollution, the existing law has a long history and is actually an amended version of the Federal Pollution Control Act of 1948.


According to the U.S. EPA, major 1972 amendments include the following:

  • Established a structure for regulating pollutants discharges into U.S. waters;
  • Gave the EPA authority to implement pollution control programs, such as setting wastewater standards;
  • Maintained existing requirements to set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters;
  • Made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source (a single identifiable source of pollution) into navigable waters (unless issued a permit to do so);
  • Funded the construction of sewage treatment plants under the construction grants program (which was phased out in in 1987 and replaced with the State Water Pollution Control State Revolving Fund); and
  • Recognized the need for planning to address the problems associated with nonpoint source (NPS) pollution. NPS are pollutants from sources that are difficult to pinpoint, such as chemicals from lawns and fields, trash, oil, and animal and human wastes.

Water Pollution Today

A major source of water pollution today is NPS pollution. We challenge all individuals to commit to reducing NPS pollution to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. This commitment can help all of our communities’ waters stay clean and healthy for years to come.




Simple Ways to Help Reduce Nonpoint Source Pollution

  1. Decrease impervious surfaces around your home to reduce stormwater runoff. Fewer hard surface, such as concrete and asphalt, allow stormwater to seep into soil rather than spilling into waterways.
  2. Installation of rain barrels and rain gardens. Installing these near your downspouts also reduces stormwater runoff.
  3. Use natural fertilizers. The use of natural fertilizers help keep harmful pollutants from entering waterways. Natural fertilizers include peat, compost, rotted manure and bone meal.
  4. Water lawns and gardens wisely.  According the EPA, landscape and irrigation account for almost one-third of all residential water use, totally an estimated 7 billion gallons per day.  To reduce the need for irrigation, plant native species that require less water, are more tolerant to drought, and don’t require the use of sprinkler irrigation. Use collected stormwater for irrigation if possible.
  5. Recycle and dispose of trash and hazardous household products properly. Making sure that paints, polishes, used oils, and other chemical are not disposed of down drains, sinks or toilets ensure these substances will not enter waterways.
  6. Avoid toxic household materials and opt for nontoxic product when possible. Keeping toxic chemicals out of the home is a sure way to not only keep your family healthy and safe, but also to help prevent those chemicals from entering our water supply. Search for nontoxic “greener” products on the EPA Greener Products website.