As game-changing laws go, the 1972 U.S. Clean Water Act ranks high.
With images of rivers like the Cuyahoga burning and fish floating belly up in Lake Erie still fresh in the public’s mind, the Act transformed the nation’s relationship with fresh water. It forbade cities and industries from using rivers and lakes as waste receptacles. And it shifted the burden of proof about pollution’s harms from the government to polluters: the Act required dischargers to have a permit, and mandated the adoption of technology-based pollution controls.
The Act also set an ambitious goal: by 1985 the nation’s waters should be “fishable and swimmable.” Although we missed that deadline, we are two-thirds of the way to achieving that goal. And we now know that reaching it will require addressing so-called “non-point” sources of pollution, including runoff from farms and city streets.
For more on this story, visit: A Bolder Clean Water Act for the Next 40 Years – News Watch.