EPA Marks 50th Anniversary of Clean Water Act

Earlier this week the EPA celebrated 50 years since Congress passed the Clean Water Act. 

Recently, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Administrator Michael S. Regan and other federal senior environmental officials gathered in Cleveland to recognize the 50th Anniversary of the Clean Water Act on the banks of the Cuyahoga River. Administrator Regan and others discussed the progress made under the Clean Water Act and its amendments, transforming waters that were once polluted into boatable, fishable, and even swimmable treasures.

According to the press release:

“The Clean Water Act has played a transformational role in protecting people’s health and safeguarding our natural resources for the enjoyment of future generations,” said EPA Administrator Michael S. Regan. “From establishing legal policy to driving technological innovation, the Clean Water Act has led to landmark standards, regulations, and protections for waterways across this country. Combined with other key initiatives and historic resources flowing to EPA, the Clean Water Act will continue to reduce pollution, restore and protect precious waters throughout the United States.”

In the 1960s, the Cuyahoga River infamously caught fire more than a dozen times, prompting environmental action and advocacy that, in part, inspired the creation of the EPA and the eventual passage of the Clean Water Act. Under the Clean Water Act, EPA has worked with partners across the country to implement vital programs that have reduced pollution, made our waterbodies safer and cleaner, and ensured businesses that rely on clean water can thrive. Since the Clean Water Act was passed in 1972, waterways around the country have been transformed into national treasures and economic engines.

Due to the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law (BPIL), the EPA has a historic level of resources flowing to the agency to support the work under the Clean Water Act. The BPIL provides $50 billion dedicated to water infrastructure projects, investing through EPA’s State Revolving Funds and through the Agency’s geographic programs and National Estuary Program to protect and restore treasured national waters. The Bipartisan Infrastructure Law is the single-largest investment in water infrastructure in U.S. history to replace lead pipes, tackle emerging contaminants like PFAS, build resilient drinking water and wastewater systems, and continue to protect one of earth’s most precious and essential resources.


The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes the basic structure for regulating discharges of point source pollutants into the waters of the United States and requires water quality standards for surface waters. The CWA made it unlawful to discharge any pollutants from a point source into navigable waters unless a permit was obtained. The EPA’s National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program contains limits on what a facility can discharge, monitoring and reporting requirements, and other provisions to ensure that the discharge does not hurt water quality and, therefore, aquatic life or human health.

Read the full press release. 

Check out the Clean Water Atc. 

Learn more about the clean water progress EPA has made over the past 50 years.