Celebrating 40 Years of Clean Water

One of my favorite places to go on weekends is a local dog park in my neighborhood.  The park has ample room for my dog, Lucy, to run off leash and there are always lots of other dogs ready to play.  Lucy, like most dogs I know, absolutely hates getting a bath; however, she loves to run, swim, and play in the cool waters of the stream that runs along the park.

This week marks the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.  Thanks to this landmark piece of legislation our waterways are clean and safe enough for both people and their canine companions to enjoy.  Before the Clean Water Act was signed into law in 1972, rivers across the country were so polluted that they were dangerous to swim in, could not support aquatic life, and in one notorious instance, even caught on fire.

In the decades since the Act went into effect, the health of rivers across the United States has drastically improved.  We have dramatically reduced the amount of pollution, including raw sewage, being released into our nation’s waterways.  As a result, our quality of life, public health, and aquatic ecosystems have reaped the benefits.          

Whether you consciously think about it or not, rivers, lakes and streams are an integral part of our lives.  In addition to the numerous recreational opportunities they provide, they also are essential to sustaining our way of life.  Not only do they supply us with water for drinking, cooking, bathing, and cleaning, but they also allow us to grow crops, nourish livestock, and even help to cool the power plants that generate the electricity we use in our homes and workplaces.  Healthy waterways are vital to our nation’s identity, well-being, and economy.

Although we have made great strides in cleaning up and protecting our waterways, there is still much left to do.  As my colleague Jon Devine has written about many times, many members of Congress are intent on gutting the law that has done so much to improve the health of America’s waterways.  As we celebrate the successes of the past 40 years, we must keep our elected officials accountable for the decisions they make today.  They either can decide to protect the interests of polluters or they can decide to build upon the Clean Water Act’s accomplishments and strengthen efforts to keep our waterways clean and healthy for future generations of Americans.                       


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