Hi, I'm Jensen Morgan. We're going to talk about some great concepts in environmental science. Today's topic is efforts to address water pollution in the United States. So let's get started. Today we're going to talk about the historical background of environmental regulation, laws, and policies that resulted from pressures on federal government to act on environmental issues, point and non-point source water pollutants, and the outcomes that have resulted both nationally and internationally from efforts to address water pollution.
Water pollution issues were originally handled by state government. But widespread public environmental concern in the late 1960s and early 1970s changed this. Federal government began to take a more active role. A significant facilitator of this was Rachel Carson's book Silent Spring published in 1962, which discussed various pollution problems, particularly the effect of agricultural practices on waterways.
Another cause of widespread public concern over water quality were dramatic events that took place in the 1960s. For example in 1969, the Cuyahoga River caught on fire due to water pollution. And a large oil spill off the coast of Santa Barbara spiked media coverage, increased public concern, and resulted in political action being taken.
An important holiday resulted from this time period as well. Earth Day became a national holiday in 1970 in an attempt to promote ecological stewardship.
Let's talk about some important laws and regulations pertaining to US water quality. In 1969, citizen groups began taking advantage of the Refuse Act of 1899. This act prohibited water pollution discharge if it was not approved by the US Army Corps of Engineers.
The citizens groups use it to sue hundreds of industrial companies who were discharging pollutants into waterways. Even though it allowed the citizen groups to advocate for water quality, the Refuse Act was not intended for environmental regulation. Its purpose was to keep waterways clear enough to allow for naval navigation.
In 1972, the Clean Water Act was passed by President Nixon's administration as a result of public pressure. Its goals were to manage US waterways so that by July 1, 1983, all waters would be fishable and swimmable, while also eliminating discharge of pollutants into waters by 1985.
The Clean Water act originally only accounted for point source polluters. When states set water quality standards, they usually organize it by uses such as public water supply, bathing, coldwater habitat, and warmwater habitat. Now the Environmental Protection Agency gives different industries water pollution limits. This includes public water treatment facilities.
Section 404 of the Clean Water Act regulates dredging and filling of navigable waters, even if they're wetlands, through the Army Corps of Engineers by issuing industries permits to negatively impact wetlands. In 1987, the Clean Water Act was amended to account for non-point source polluters.
States are now required to assess if their waterways are impacted by non-point polluters, as well as develop programs to address problems. The amendment mostly granted funds and information for state projects to do things like create riparian buffer zones, educate citizens about not dumping certain wastes into their water systems, and training watershed partnership leaders.
Addressing non-point source pollution is much more difficult than point source because it comes from a wide distribution of sources, and therefore it is hard to target the polluter. Efforts to mitigate non-point source pollution include land use planning, voluntary best management practices, technical assistance for landowners, and cost sharing between landowners for things like riparian buffer zones.
Efforts to address US water pollution has resulted in sewage treatment plants dramatically reducing water pollution. About half of US waterways are now considered clean, and the most severe cases have been substantially improved and cleaned. International efforts have been primarily focused on agreements around protecting international waterways. While dozens of countries have signed agreements between each other to prevent water pollution, few have included any agreed upon standards or requirements.
Now let's have a recap. We talked about the historical background of environmental regulation, laws and policies that resulted from the public pressure for cleaner waterways, we talked about the Clean Water Act of 1972, how it only addressed point source polluters until 1987, when it was amended to include non-point sources as well.
Finally we discussed outcomes of United States efforts to address water pollution, as well as international efforts to do so. Well, that's all for today. I hope these concepts have been helpful and I look forward to next time. Bye.