Celebrating Clean Water Through The Generations


A girl and her friend enjoy a clean stream

A girl and her friend enjoy a clean stream | Katherine Baer

Today is the 40th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act, and over the last several weeks we’ve taken the time to post some stories by our staff and friends about how the Clean Water Act and clean water has made a difference in their lives. I’ve been inspired and couldn’t help smiling when reading about the all connections people have with clean rivers and streams, including:

It also struck me how many different ways that people connect to clean water and rivers – whether by leading a crew boat, playing in the backyard creek, or a spelling lesson, rivers are part of everyone’s story.

Fishing in Michigan

And, of course, it’s not just us celebrating – from Kentucky to Tennessee to Wisconsin to North Carolina, and elsewhere, people are recognizing the Clean Water Act its value in creating “rivers that are assets to a community rather than punch lines.” In Virginia, James River Association Executive Director Bill Street credits the Clean Water Act as the main reason Richmond could win Outside Magazine’s Best River Town contest given the river’s huge clean water improvements resulting from the law.  

But what will our clean water stories be like when the Clean Water Act turns 50? Right now, threats to our landmark law include efforts to undermine the fundamental structure of the Clean Water Act, cuts in water infrastructure funding, and a variety of proposed changes that all chip away at the progress we’ve made so far. Instead, we must redouble our efforts and look to the future including:

  • Ensuring that the Clean Water Act protects our small streams, the capillaries of our mighty rivers, as it did for over 30 years;
  • Address remaining problems like polluted stormwater runoff by updating existing regulations and building on local innovation;
  • Creating sustainable funding and financing for the future of water infrastructure such as green infrastructure, water efficiency and potable reuse.

So, today, on the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, take a moment to remember a favorite river and celebrate how far we’ve come in cleaning up our rivers – and then, join us to work for a strong Clean Water Act and ensure the future of clean water and healthy rivers for generations to come.

Wateree River Blue Trail, SC

Wateree River Blue Trail, SC | Matt Rice