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What is the Clean Water Act?

Updated: Jan 2, 2023

The federal statute known as the Clean Water Act (CWA) was created in 1972 to safeguard the quality of the country's surface water. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for enforcing the CWA, which aims to make all American waters "fishable and swimmable."

The CWA controls the release of contaminants into surface waters, such as wetlands, rivers, lakes, and streams. In addition to establishing a permit system for the discharge of pollutants from point sources like industrial and municipal facilities, it also specifies standards for the quality of these waters. The CWA also contains clauses that safeguard delicate aquatic environments including coral reefs and wetlands.

The National Pollutant Release Elimination System (NPDES), a permit scheme that controls the discharge of pollutants from point sources, is one of the primary mechanisms of the CWA. Facilities that release pollutants into surface waters are required under the NPDES program to get a permit and adhere to strict guidelines on the types and quantities of pollutants they are allowed to discharge.

The CWA contains measures for the control of nonpoint sources of pollution, such as agricultural runoff and stormwater runoff from metropolitan areas, in addition to regulations for point sources of pollution. These rules are intended to stop water pollution from sources that are harder to control and more diffuse than point sources.

All things considered, the Clean Water Act is a crucial tool for preserving the standard of the country's surface water. It helps maintain the wellbeing of aquatic ecosystems and ensuring that these waters are safe for drinking, swimming, and other recreational pursuits.

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