Press Release

Government Watchdog Warns Clean Water In Peril


Majority of America’s Waters Still Impaired

Gaithersburg, MD – In a report released yesterday, the Government Accountability Office (GAO) found that more than 40 years after Congress approved the Clean Water Act, the majority of our nation’s waters continue to be impaired. The main cause is non-point source pollution – runoff from farms, roadways, and backyards across the country. The Izaak Walton League empowers citizens to respond to this growing threat by monitoring and restoring water quality in their communities.

GAO concludes that “progress toward the Clean Water Act’s goals of restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters – including designated uses of fishing, swimming, and drinking – has stalled, largely because non-point source pollution has not been controlled.” GAO calls on Congress and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to take a range of actions to protect and restore America’s waters.

In addition to government action, stream monitoring by citizen volunteers can help resolve the persistent threat from polluted runoff. As GAO found, pollution flowing from industrial pipes been substantially reduced over the past 40 years. The greatest threat to water quality today is the invisible flow of pollution from across the land. Because the source of pollution is more diffuse, we can’t simply rely on the current system of regulating water quality at the end of a pipe – it is essential to monitor water quality stream by stream. Government agencies can’t monitor every stream, but citizens across the country can – and do – play this role every day.

The Izaak Walton League pioneered citizen stream monitoring more than 40 years ago through our Save Our Streams program and today empowers citizens to protect and restore water quality where they live.

Regular monitoring of local waterways helps volunteers identify water quality problems and ways to address them. When water quality is good, citizens can work to ensure healthy waters are maintained. When water quality is impaired, citizens can address the problem by leading on-the-ground restoration projects and reporting monitoring results to local and state agencies. Government agencies have a responsibility to accept and act on this data as well.

To find resources for citizen water quality monitoring, visit the Izaak Walton League’s Web site at You can read the full GAO report online at


Founded in 1922, the Izaak Walton League of America protects America's outdoors through education, community-based conservation, and promoting outdoor recreation.