In 1972, passage of the Clean Water Act was a game changer. As Sandra Postel, director of the Global Water Policy Project and lead water expert for National Geographic’s Freshwater Initiative, wrote:
It forbade cities and industries from using rivers and lakes as waste receptacles. And it shifted the burden of proof about pollution’s harms from the government to polluters: the Act required dischargers to have a permit, and mandated the adoption of technology-based pollution controls.
The Act also set an ambitious goal: by 1985 the nation’s waters should be “fishable
There has been much progress -- healthier water to drink; cleaner streams, rivers,
and lakes; lower rates of wetland loss. Forty years ago the Hudson
River was more of an industrial waste conveyance than a great waterway. Today,
thanks to the Clean Water Act and citizen action from groups like Hudson Riverkeeper
, who stood up to
polluters and gave meaning and force to the Clean Water Act, the Hudson River
is a model of ecosystem revitalization.
But the goal has not been met. In our own Wolf River Harbor signs are posted warning
that fish caught there are contaminated and inedible. The trash and debris in
McKellar Lake has been labeled by Living Lands and Waters as one of the worst
examples of pollution. It is time for the City and Memphians to make stewardship of our rivers, creeks, and streams a top City priority.
Ms.Postel suggests six priorities for the U. S. for the next 40 years:
* clarify the Act,
* provide stronger incentives (or requirements),
* address pollution from storm water,
* bring the energy production practice of hydraulic fracturing under the purview of the Clean Water Act (as well as the Safe Drinking Water Act) and establish permitting requirements that safeguard
* reinvigorate water conservation and efficiency
* restore natural flow patterns to rivers.
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