The Clean Water Act through the Generations: Generation X Series, Pt. 3

How has the Clean Water Act impacted your life? For those of us born before or around the passage of the Clean Water Act in 1972, we interpret this law through the eyes of Generation X.

Chattahoochee River, GA

Chattahoochee River, GA | TimothyJ

I’ll never forget the moment as I watched, mouth hanging open, as a tall man nonchalantly wadded up his burger wrapper, stepped into the street, and tossed it directly into a storm drain that led right to the Chattahoochee River.

How could he not know that streams in our cities are often right beneath us, hidden and buried away, but still leading to our creeks and eventually our rivers?

Yes… okay, I was fairly young at the time! But it was a moment that crystallized for me the vast divide between the clean water we depend on every day and people’s actions, intentional or not, that threaten it in many different ways. Streams and rivers are everywhere – almost all of us live within a mile of a river, and yet in our cities and suburbs, streams are often hidden from site – depriving us of the chance to enjoy and appreciate them. Creeks in cities are often dirty too, and some people want to write them off as unworthy of protection and restoration.

But rivers bring places to life, and that’s why I love the Clean Water Act, whose goal is to “restore and maintain” our waters. The Clean Water Act doesn’t give up on streams just because they’re in a City and trashed by lunchtime commuters and polluted runoff from roads and parking lots. Instead, there are requirements to reduce polluted runoff from development and sewer overflows, all aimed at meeting clean water standards to protect public health, drinking water and swimming. Clearly, we haven’t gotten there yet – but for every person who throws their trash into the river, there’s someone else who is fighting to protect it.

So, in a way, I owe a debt of thanks to the hamburger-man – he made clear to me that protecting clean water is not top of mind for everyone, underscoring the critical nature of strong safeguards like the Clean Water Act to protect clean water for all of us.

We told some stories about the Act back on its 35th birthday, and now, as we approach the 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, we’re fighting harder than ever to fight rollbacks and keep those protections in place – join us!

Reply to this post and tell us why clean water matters to you!