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Clean Water Act of 1977

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The key objective of the Clean Water Act of 1977 is to further America's goal of eliminating the discharge pollutants into the navigable waters of the United States.

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The Clean Water Act ("CWA") passed in 1977 and acts as an amendment to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972.[1] The CWA outlawed the discharge of any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters unless a permit was obtained. Point sources are distinct conveyances such as pipes or man-made ditches.[2]

The 1977 Act bolstered the Environmental Protection Agency's ("EPA") authority to eliminate toxic pollutants by: (1) requiring industry to meet best available technology standards for specified toxic pollutants by July 1, 1984, and (2) mandating compliance with best available technology standards for newly listed toxins within three years.[3] Three new categories of pollutants were created under this law: conventional, non-conventional, and toxic pollutants. The standard for best available technology applies to the non-conventional and toxic pollutants, while the standard for best conventional technology applies to conventional pollutants.

Since the enactment of CWA, there has been a:

  • doubling in the number of waterways safe for fishing and swimming;
  • a reduction in industrial discharges by billions of pounds a year;
  • a more than doubling in the number of Americans served by adequate sewage treatment;
  • a reduction in annual wetland losses by 75% a year; and
  • a reduction in soil erosion from cropland by more than a third.[4]


  1. http://smallbusiness.findlaw.com/business-laws-regulations/business-laws-all/environmental-law-key-federal-laws.html
  2. http://www.epa.gov/lawsregs/laws/cwa.html
  3. http://www.epa.gov/history/topics/cwa/04.htm
  4. http://www.hss.energy.gov/nuclearsafety/env/training/envlawsregs256/cwamanual.pdf

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