Celebrating the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act

  • Posted by Dawn Merritt

    2012 is filled with major milestones in conservation. In addition to the League’s 90th anniversary, this year marks the 40th anniversary of passage of the Clean Water Act.

    By Scott Kovarovics, IWLA Conservation Director

    Today, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is kicking off a campaign to celebrate how far the nation has come in tackling water pollution and look ahead to the challenges that remain.

    Forty years ago, the country was plagued with burning rivers, dead lakes, and industrial pollution that choked waterways large and small. Americans demanded action, and Congress responded with the Clean Water Act. Water quality has improved significantly since then. We’ve made major strides in reducing point source pollution – pollution that comes from a pipe or specific industrial source. Many rivers, lakes, and other waters that were devoid of fish and wildlife or too fouled for boating now support world-class outdoor recreation. And the devastating pace of wetland drainage has been slowed dramatically – in part because of the wetland conservation provisions in the Clean Water Act.

    However, our country still faces major water quality challenges. Non-point source pollution – runoff from lawns, farm fields, and parking lots – is widely recognized as the most significant threat to water quality today. And the progress we’ve made is threatened because Clean Water Act protections for streams, wetlands, and other waters have been weakened and undermined. The League is fighting hard to restore those protections, and EPA has been a leader in this effort as well.

    The 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act is a time to celebrate how far we’ve come and recommit ourselves to meeting the remaining challenges head-on. EPA has a special anniversary Web site – www.epa.gov/cleanwater40 – that offers resources you can use to educate and engage your community on water issues. The agency is also planning a series of activities to highlight the importance of clean water in our everyday lives, including:

    • Video Contest: Submit a 15-second video explaining why clean water is important to you. This would be a great activity to do with kids at a chapter fishing day or summer camp.
    • “Then and Now” Photo Gallery: EPA will showcase a collection of water-related photos from the 1970s and request photos from the same locations today. One of the locations could be just down the road from where you live.
    • Clean Water Curriculum: EPA is developing tools for teachers and others to use to educate children about water pollution and engage them in water conservation – today and for the next 40 years.

    This is a milestone that League members can be proud to celebrate. And Ikes can take credit for being a strong voice for clean water well before 1972. Our founding members were leading water quality assessments nationwide in the 1920s. In the 1930s and 40s, the League was one of the strongest and most consistent voices for national water quality standards. In the 1960s, we pioneered citizen-based stream monitoring with Save Our Streams, which became the model for other organizations and states in the years that followed. And League members are building on that legacy today, whether it’s fighting to restore Clean Water Act protections for streams and wetlands or taking kids to local streams to learn why clean water matters to all of us.

    We encourage League members and supporters to join us in celebrating the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act. At a time when Clean Water Act protections are at risk and some in Congress want to turn back the clock, it’s critical that we join together to advocate for clean and healthy waters for every American.

    It’s a great year for birthdays!

    To read more about the League's efforts to restore the Clean Water Act, visit our Protecting Clean Water Web page.


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