Clean Water Act

Last updated: February 12, 2017

What Does Clean Water Act Mean?

The Clean Water Act is the name given to the 1972 amendment of the Federal Water Pollution Control Act that was enacted in 1948. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act was the first major law enacted by Congress to address the problems of water pollution in the United States.The Clean Water Act (CWA) establishes the basic structure for regulating pollution discharge into United States waters and regulating quality standards for surface waters.

Safeopedia Explains Clean Water Act

The CWA made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into "navigable waters," unless a permit was obtained. EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program controls discharges. Point sources are discrete conveyances such as pipes or man-made ditches. Individual homes that are connected to a municipal system, use a septic system, or do not have a surface discharge do not need an NPDES permit; however, industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters. The EPA has recently clarified for the businesses of today that "navigable waters" may include near anything wet and this will be an area to watch for small businesses.


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