Clean Water Act

One of the best initiatives taken by the government of America to protect public health is the Clean Water Act. The act is to date the crucial aspect of pollution control programs by the Environmental Protection Agency. Navigable waters, surface waters, coastal waters, and drinking water supplies; keeping a close watch on all of the nation’s waters has been the aim of the Clean Water Act.

In this article, we will discuss in detail how the Clean Water Act has been able to protect the water bodies of the United States. Keeping water pollution under control and improving the water quality standards of all the waters of the United States has been the primary focus of the Clean Water Act. Let us take a look at how effective the Clean Water Act has been to improve the drinking water quality standards and render water pollution control to the other water bodies of the United States.

3 Key Takeaways:

🔸 The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) originally published the Clean Water Act on October 18th, 1972.

🔸 The Clean Water Act aims at complete restoration of the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the United States.

🔸 Direct and indirect dischargers of pollutants into the streams, lakes, rivers, and coastal waters of the United States are monitored by the Clean Water Act under the limitations set by the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES).

What is the Clean Water Act?

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.) originally published the Clean Water Act as a result of public health awareness. Decreasing water quality standards and increasing water pollution forced the need to bring strict pollution control programs to protect aquatic life, biological integrity, and human health.

The Clean Water Act is the primary law that is in place to monitor the pollutant discharges into the nation’s waters. The water quality standards of the water bodies of the United States were meant to be scrutinized by the Clean Water Act. Apart from studying the pollutants, mostly from industrial facilities and raw sewage, the Clean Water Act also focuses on the restoration of the nation’s waters. A complete restoration of the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the waters of the United States has been the aim set before the Clean Water Act. Protecting coastal waters and other surface waters against hazardous industrial sources in order to rebuild aquatic life and safeguard human health is exactly what the Clean Water Act and Environmental Protection Agency fulfill.

When was the Clean Water Act passed?

It has been five decades since the Clean Water Act was passed. Many wetlands, lakes, rivers, streams, and coastal waters of the United States have been safeguarded over the last five decades. The Federal Government and Federal agencies enacted the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 (33 U.S.C. 1251 et seq.). The Clean Water Act was amended in 1977 (P.L. 95-217).

Has the Clean Water Act improved the environment?

Yes. The Clean Water Act looks at pollution control and restoration of the water bodies from broad categories. The Clean Water Act has laid conditions when it comes to direct and indirect dischargers of pollutants into the streams, lakes, rivers, and coastal waters of the United States under the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). With the amendment of the Clean Water Act, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) also received the authority to implement guidelines and rules on pollution control. With specific programs to control pollution, the Clean Water Act was able to set wastewater standards for industrial facilities or industrial sources of pollution, and water quality standards for surface water pollutants.

CWA has made point source pollution unlawful. It is a punishable offense by law for any individual or agency to discharge pollutants into any of the nation’s waters without an NPDES permit. Individual permits and general permits are no longer effective. If the NPDES permits the discharge of the pollutants after analysis, then it can be done.

The Clean Water Act has certainly helped to improve the environment and water quality. The several limitations in place make it easier to control the pollutants released into the nation’s waters. Technology-based effluent limitation guidelines make it easier to identify the pollutants and limit them. Conventional pollutants, Toxic pollutants, and Non-conventional pollutants are the three broad categories by which the pollutants are identified.

How did the Clean Water Act affect the economy?

Environmental laws are a boon to the economy. The federal government only benefits from the implementation of laws that reduce pollution and protect its natural resources. Although the expenditure on restoration projects might work out to be an expensive investment, the profit lies in the returns that outweigh the expense.

It has been reported that the United States has witnessed a 207 percent increase in the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) after the amendment of most of its environmental laws. The annual benefits obtained from the CWA or Clean Water Act alone are estimated at around $11 billion. The support that the economy receives from CWA is a result of better human health. The situation improves by having more job opportunities and more people working.

When there are more algal blooms, red tide events, and pollution, it only leads to poor human health, a drop in tourism, reduced recreational opportunities, property values, and tax base. As a result of this, it cost people their jobs and even affected small and large-scale businesses. Once the effects of water pollution have been addressed and the right measures have been undertaken to invest in the conservation and restoration of the nation’s waters, even the local communities and local governments were able to see the significant improvement in the economic front.

How technology improves the Clean Water Act standards?

A drastic improvement in water quality has been observed after the introduction of technical assistance in programs to control pollution. With advanced technical assistance, it is possible to monitor and collect data using remote sensors. Water quality sensors are designed to provide real-time information on the level of pollutants present in the water bodies. When the data collection technique is precise with technical assistance, it becomes easier to address the problem.

Technology has also been the most instrumental aspect for error-free and powerful analysis of data. Computing and data analytics tools make it possible to process even large datasets when it comes to water quality analysis. These tools support all the efforts from federal agencies to identify and work on CWA limitations and compliance. It must be noted that proactive measures on pollution control in rivers, lakes, streams, and other water bodies of the United States have been made possible only with the help of predictive tools that can forecast potential pollution sources.

Sewage treatment plants make the best use of technology to treat raw sewage before they are discharged. Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and geospatial tools are crucial in mapping and visualization of water bodies and pollution hotspot sources. Here again, technology makes it easier to plan the remediation and restoration processes. Most importantly, getting clean water with technologies such as bioremediation and nanotechnology have been invented. These advanced techniques help in improving water quality standards.

Which human activity has the most negative impact on water quality?

A long list of human activities continues to be a prominent cause of concern in water pollution. A few of the existing sources (point sources and nonpoint sources) include agricultural sources of pollution, industrial sources, animal wastes, chemicals, heavy metals, etc. Among all the human activities that harm the environment in the water bodies, sewage, and wastewater treatment have the highest negative impact.

Raw sewage or untreated sewage water that has been discharged into water bodies can be more hazardous than you expect. The nitrogen and phosphorous content in raw sewage can easily pollute lakes and reservoirs by the process of Eutrophication. The emphasis on passing water through sewage treatment plants is to remove it from the hazardous content present in it. Human and animal waste, chemicals, heavy metals, pathogens, and nutrients like nitrogen and phosphorus are capable of causing severe and serious damage to aquatic ecosystems and public health.

As of result of polluted lakes, rivers, reservoirs, and other water bodies with untreated sewage water, it can cause algal blooms, oxygen depletion, and the death of aquatic organisms. The indirect impact of this is the disruption in the balance of the aquatic ecosystem, and food chains, and diminishing biodiversity. In order to best address this biohazard, the Environmental Protection Agency, and other federal agencies pay close attention to the effective treatment and disposal of sewage, including wastewater recycling and green infrastructure.

What are 5 ways to stop water pollution?

There are plentiful practices that can be implemented on a small and large scale to stop water pollution. Here are the top 5 ways in which one can support the prevention of water pollution as an individual.

  1. Water conservation: It starts with being cautious of how one spends the water supply at home. Take immediate action to fix leaks to stop wasting the available water resources. It is important to educate every person on the responsible use of water. Small ways to recycle water at home are extremely beneficial in the long run for the greater good of the planet. The magnitude of the impact of this small action will be immense.
  2. Chemicals at home: We often do not pay attention list of ingredients at the back of a box. The simplest of products at home can be hazardous to the nature around us. Harsh cleaning agents, pesticides, and fertilizers contain hazardous substances to the environment and human health. Replacing these agents with natural or eco-friendly products, wherever possible is an effective method to stop these pollutants from entering the water streams.
  3. Disposal: Responsible and proper disposal of waste matter is important to control any type of pollution. Do not dump any type of waste matter into toilets, drains, or stormwater runoff drains. Chemicals and motor oils are the common dumps found in such drainage systems, and it is difficult to reverse the pollution they have caused.
  4. Industrial facilities: If you have a greater responsibility for disposing of waste matter, ensure that your business abides by the guidelines that NPDES permits. Support all the steps that industrial facilities undertake to discard their chemical and physical waste carefully, away from the nation’s waters. If you are aware of businesses that do not follow federal permits, stand up as a responsible citizen to protect the waters of the United States.
  5. Public awareness: Support the greater cause. Support all the initiatives taken by the Environmental Protection Agency and even smaller local groups to conserve water infrastructure and the nation’s waters. If there is any general permit and NPDES permit that any organization that concerns you must adhere to, make sure that the limitations are followed. Participate and encourage initiatives taken by environmental activists to remove pollutants from the nation’s streams, lakes, and navigable waters of the United States.

Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Who opposed the Clean Water Act?

There was opposition to the Clean Water Act by those who feared how deeply the law would interfere with their business and livelihoods. The opponents included some state and local governments present at that time, several industrial facilities and associations, political parties, and even some agriculturists.

2. How does the Clean Water Act affect farmers?

The impact of the Clean Water Act on farming comes into play with the discharge of pollutants. The law has restrictions in place to prevent harmful pollutants from being discharged into the navigable waters of the United States. Pollutants such as pesticides or fertilizers that are being let into rivers, streams, springs, wetlands, or other water bodies must be aligned with the pollution limits and NPDES permit. Although these serious regulations are being enforced to protect the existing waters of the United States and to prevent soil erosion as well; certain farming groups find the limitations stressful.

3. Why doesn’t the US have clean water?

The level of clean water available in the United States has seen a gradual decline due to various reasons. The water infrastructure system of the nation needs a timely upgrade. When the water infrastructure including aging pipes and leaks is not addressed, it paves the way for increasing contamination in the water supplies.

Natural disasters during hurricanes, floods, and wildfires are highly capable of causing damage and large-scale destruction to water treatment facilities. This will surely affect clean water supplies. Industrial plants, agriculture, animal farming, lead contamination from construction of buildings, etc., are the other factors taht affect clean water supply in the United States.

4. What is being done about water pollution?

The Clean Water Act is one of the many initiatives that have been taken by the government to stop pollution from affecting the waters of the United States. Apart from this, there is access to a highly advanced wastewater treatment program, effective stormwater runoff management, consistent monitoring of the water quality, international treaties to cover transboundary water pollution, etc.

5. What state has the most contaminated water?

The information on the state with the most contaminated water can vary from time to time, depending on factors that cause a momentary impact on the contents of pollutants as well. Indiana has been rated as the state with the highest release of toxic pollutants according to the Environmental Protection Agency. Industrial facilities such as factories and power plants release heavy metals, pesticides, and solvents which are extremely toxic and hazardous to the environment.

6. Is vitamin water good for children?

It is OK for a child to drink vitamin water occasionally, for example out in the sports field. Parents must remember that vitamin water is not the ideal way to nourish a child with essential minerals and vitamins. Children must consume their daily vitamins and minerals from healthy wholesome food items and not from artificial sweeteners or foods that come with added vitamins. The preservatives in the food item can lead to health complications in children over the years of their physical and cognitive development.


Fifty years after the passing of the Clean Water Act on October 18th, 1972, the responsibility to protect and converse the nation’s waters is greater now with the toxicity of the pollutants. The Biden administration has proposed measures to restore the Clean Water Act protections for the nation’s streams and many wetlands by implementing the pre-2015 practice. According to this practice, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will make a case-by-base determination if the stream or wetland is being protected. The studies and practices undertaken by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers can be found at the National Wildlife Federation. The Supreme Court has also discussed the case of protection and pollution prevention in the many wetlands in the country.

We trust the article you were able to understand the importance and impact of the Clean Water Act and what it stands for. It is important to spread the message of awareness and individual responsibility everyone must take to protect all sources of water.

About The Author

Tracy Edwards is an ardent enthusiast of water treatment. She is well-versed in the intricacies of water softeners and filters, and her unwavering dedication to promoting clean and healthy water sets her apart as a true advocate.

Tracy began her career in water treatment as a technician, working on the installation and maintenance of water softeners and filters. She quickly rose through the ranks, and within a few years, she was managing a team of technicians. In this role, she gained a deep understanding of the technical aspects of water treatment, as well as the challenges faced by homeowners and businesses.

In her spare time, Tracy enjoys spending time with her family and friends, hiking, and traveling. She is also an avid volunteer, and she is passionate about giving back to her community.