Water Quality Issues in the 112th Congress: Oversight and Implementation [October 5, 2012]   [open pdf - 352KB]

"Much progress has been made in achieving the ambitious goals that Congress established nearly 40 years ago to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters. However, long-standing problems persist, and new problems have emerged. Water quality problems are diverse, ranging from pollution runoff from farms and ranches, city streets, and other diffuse or 'nonpoint' sources, to 'point' source discharges of metals and organic and inorganic toxic substances from factories and sewage treatment plants. The principal law that deals with polluting activity in the nation's streams, lakes, estuaries, and coastal waters is the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (P.L. 92-500, enacted in 1972), commonly known as the Clean Water Act, or CWA. It consists of two major parts: regulatory provisions that impose progressively more stringent requirements on industries and cities to abate pollution and meet the statutory goal of zero discharge of pollutants; and provisions that authorize federal financial assistance for municipal wastewater treatment plant construction. […] Programs at the federal level are administered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA); state and local governments have primary day-to-day responsibilities to implement CWA programs through standard-setting, permitting, enforcement, and administering financial assistance programs. The water quality restoration objective declared in the 1972 act was accompanied by statutory goals to eliminate the discharge of pollutants into navigable waters by 1985 and to attain, wherever possible, waters deemed 'fishable and swimmable' by 1983. […] Many environmental groups believe that further fine-tuning is needed to maintain progress achieved to date and to address remaining water quality problems."

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CRS Report for Congress, R41594
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