Water Quality Laws

Nina Evangelista

Clean Water Act

In 1972, Congress passed this law to help protect and restore the lakes, streams and rivers of this country. The goals of the Clean Water Act were simple. Water should be clean enough for fishing, swimming and other recreational uses. Discharges of pollutants were to be eventually eliminated. Factories and waste treatment plants were no longer free to get rid of their wastes in the nation's waters. They had to get permits, limiting the pollution they could release. They also had to keep track of their waste discharges and report on their efforts to reduce pollution. The act authorized money to go to cities and towns to help them upgrade their treatment plants. People looked for new ways to reduce discharge from factories.

Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972

The Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972 encourages states to be responsible stewards of coastal land by implementing management programs. The Act was passed because by the 1970s, many of the nation's lakes, streams and rivers were so degraded that many were unable to support aquatic life. Federal law says states' coastal programs should include provisions:

  1. Protecting natural resources, including wetlands, flood plains, estuaries, beaches, dunes, barrier islands, coral reefs, fish and wildlife and their habitat.
  2. Managing coastal development to minimize the loss of life and property caused by improper development in flood-prone, storm surge, geological hazard and erosion-prone areas.
  3. Managing coastal development to improve, safeguard and restore the quality of coastal waters and to protect natural resources and existing uses of those waters.
  4. Increasing public access to the coasts for recreational purposes.
  5. Assisting the redevelopment of deteriorating urban waterfronts and ports.
  6. Assisting the preservation and restoration of historic, cultural, and aesthetic coastal features