On 30th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act Water Quality Has Improved, but Renewed Federal Commitment Key AMSA Declares Funding Shortfall as Most Pressing Challenge

Clean Water Advocacy - News Releases - October 18, 2002

For Immediate Release: October 18, 2002
Contact: Adam Krantz, 202/833-4651, AMSA

On 30th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act
Water Quality Has Improved, but Renewed Federal Commitment Key
Thanks in large part to the efforts of the nation’s publicly owned treatment works (POTWs), which treat billions of gallons of wastewater every day, America’s rivers, lakes and streams have witnessed significant water quality gains and public health improvements. Due to the work of the public servants, who everyday make sure our waters are clean, the horror stories of the 1970s — Lake Erie on her deathbed; the Cuyahoga River bursting into flames, and waterways all over the country closed for swimming and fishing — are the success stories of today.

At the heart of these improvements is the 1972 Clean Water Act, under which the nation launched an unprecedented initiative to combat water pollution, enabling us to improve water quality across the board while at the same time enjoying record economic growth and a sizeable population expansion. What enabled the Clean Water Act to be so successful, however, was a strong federal funding infusion in the form of the construction grants program that helped communities across the country build sewage treatment plants. At its peak in the 1970s, the federal government was paying for 90% of wastewater infrastructure funding, a commitment that has since dwindled to under 10%. As with all construction, this infrastructure has a finite lifespan, and without a long-term federal recommitment to clean water, the nation risks losing the water quality gains for which it has worked so hard over the past 30 years.

Despite 30 years of hard work the nation’s water quality remains at risk. An EPA report released this month shows that more than a third of our rivers, lakes and streams are currently impaired. As Ken Kirk, Executive Director of the Association of Metropolitan Sewerage Agencies (AMSA), notes: “Simply stated, much more must be done. And over the past two weeks a parade of original Clean Water Act legislators, environmentalists, EPA leaders, municipal and industry officials have all voiced what that ‘more’ is: a renewed, long-term, federal commitment to America’s waters.”

The 30th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act is a time to celebrate the nation’s water quality progress. Yet, at the same time, we must acknowledge and accept that future progress will depend largely on the will of the federal government to join with state and local governments to ensure continued improvement in the nation’s water quality. Should the federal government fail to make a long-term, financial commitment to our clean water future, these past 30 years of water quality progress will have been in vain — an eventuality AMSA will work hard to ensure never comes to pass.

AMSA is a national trade association representing more than 280 publicly owned treatment works across the country. As environmental practitioners, AMSA’s members treat more than 18 billion gallons of wastewater each day and service the majority of the U.S. population.

1816 Jefferson Place, Washington, DC 20036-2505 • 202.833.AMSA • 202.833.4657 FAX