50 Years of the Clean Water Act
Today is the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act.
Just five decades ago, American waterways—the lifeblood of our communities—were rapidly declining after centuries of industrialization and neglect, and we had no comprehensive federal law to protect them.
The importance of the Clean Water Act cannot be understated: it has been and is our most transformative law on the management of water pollution. On its 50th anniversary, let’s take a moment to acknowledge how far we’ve come and appreciate the efforts of local leaders in imagining and shepherding the Clean Water Act into law. One key local leader, Carl Stokes, the first Black Mayor of Cleveland, was a staunch advocate for environmental health and drove the first media campaign surrounding the Cuyahoga River fires—a catalyst to the Clean Water Act’s passage.
At the US Water Alliance, we are celebrating this milestone by launching our Clean Water Act at 50 video series, where One Water leaders share their perspectives on the history of the Clean Water Act, what it means to them and their communities, and their hopes for the future of water management. Today, we are releasing the conclusion of the series, where these leaders voice how water management must continue to evolve and grow over the next 50 years.
Today, we have a lot to be proud of, but we must recognize that there’s still so much to be done. In the time leading up to the Clean Water Act’s centennial, let’s advance equity, climate change, and workforce development in water management. Let’s position utilities as community-centered anchor institutions and honor community voices in guiding our One Water work. Let’s stress the importance of continual learning and improvement on our path forward. And let’s remember this is a collective endeavor, and together we can achieve a future where all water is valued and managed sustainably.
Here’s to the path so many of you have forged, and to the exciting water future ahead.
Yours in One Water,