Clean Water Act

Type: 
Authorizing Statutes
Year: 
1972

This is the principal statute governing water quality. The statute's goal is to end all discharges entirely and to restore, maintain and preserve the integrity of the nation's waters, with an interim goal of providing water that is both fishable and swimmable. The Act regulates both the direct and indirect discharge of pollutants into the nation's waters. It mandates permits for wastewater and storm water discharges, regulates publicly owned treatment works that treat municipal and industrial wastewater, requires states to establish site-specific water quality standards for navigable bodies of water, and regulates other activities that affect water quality, such as dredging and the filling of wetlands. The Clean Water Act was enacted in 1977 as a series of amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948.

Specific Natural Resource Trustee Authorities:

Section 311:

  • regulates the discharge of oil and other hazardous substances into navigable waters and waters of the contiguous zone, as well as onto adjoining shorelines, that may be harmful to the public or to natural resources
  • establishes that the party responsible for discharge must notify the appropriate Federal agency;
  • allows the Federal government to remove the substance and assess the removal costs against the responsible person
  • defines removal costs to include costs for the restoration or replacement of natural resources damaged or destroyed as a result of a discharge of oil or a hazardous substance.