40 Years Later: The Way Forward for the Nation's Clean Water Act
The Clean Water Act "sets wastewater standards and regulates the discharge of pollutants into the nation's oceans, rivers and lakes", says Mark Gold, former president of Heal the Bay and associate director of UCLA's Institute of The Environment and Sustainability, in a recent editorial piece published in the Los Angeles Times. Yet, "without a more comprehensive federal approach to water management, the nation's aquifers, rivers, lakes and coastal waters will continue to degrade."
According to Gold, the Clean Water Act has been responsible for a myriad of successes locally in Los Angeles County, as well as nationally, in no small part due to collaboration amongst diverse stakeholders from both the public and private sectors. He asserts, however, that although the act has led to cleaner, safer and healthier beaches for aquatic life, swimmers and surfers, it still has a long way to go before achieving what Congress envisioned 40 years back.
Gold points to the fact that the act cannot create "universally fishable, swimmable and drinkable waters," as Congress initially foresaw. He adds that pollution from agriculture, mining and timber industries, as well as from septic systems are largely unregulated, and that storm-water management also needs to be strengthened.
Some of these improvements require minor revisions to the existing rules mandated in the Act, but others require congressional action and bipartisan support. Gold challenges Congressional representatives to listen to Americans' concerns about water quality, and to work harder to meet the act's initial aspirations.