This year marks the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act and the 35th anniversary of the Water Quality Act. These two pieces of legislation were, and still are, critical to ensuring that we here at OCWA, Central New York’s Water Authority, are able to deliver clean and reliable water to our customers at an affordable rate.

Below is a brief summary of important legislation relating to water.

The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 was the first major U.S. law to address water pollution. As the public became more aware of water pollution and its impact on communities’ amendments were made to this legislation to further regulate pollutants. The law is now commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA).

The 1972 amendments to the CWA include:

  • Establishing the basic structure for regulating pollutant discharges into the waters of the United States.
  • Giving EPA the authority to implement pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry.
  • Maintaining requirements to set water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters.
  • Making it unlawful for any person to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters unless a permit was obtained under its provisions.
  • Funding the construction of sewage treatment plants under the construction grants program.
  • Recognizing the need for planning to address the critical problems posed by nonpoint source pollution.

The CWA is the most important law in the United States for regulating pollution of nature’s surface water bodies. It was once again amended in 1987 by the Water Quality Act. The Water Quality Act of 1987 is one of the most significant modifications to the CWA since the 1972 legislation. Prior to the enactment of the Water Quality Act of 1987, state legislation often posed significant obstacles in water quality standard development. This amendment directed states to establish a standard based on the EPA’s national water quality criteria for toxic pollutants. This critical legislation keeps our waterways safe and clean from contaminants. It helps to ensure that OCWA can draw the highest quality water from our fresh water sources.