The health and protection of water quality in America has long been associated with the federal government. The landmark Clean Water Act of 1972 hastened the reversal of centuries of disregard and degradation of our nation’s rivers and streams. For most of U.S. history, waterways were used as sewers and dumping grounds, and the health of the rivers and the aquatic life they support suffered greatly. We need only look back 50 years, when the Delaware River was so polluted that its toxic waters corroded the paint on ships, fish could not migrate beyond Philadelphia, and people got sick from breathing noxious fumes coming from the river.
A renewed awareness of our relationship to water – and the fragility of freshwater ecosystems – is essential in a time when we can no longer take for granted that effective environmental safeguards are keeping our freshwater resources protected. Sadly, federal regulations protecting water quality are now under wholesale attack. Safeguards are being dismantled for the sake of financial and political gain. It seems that doing what’s best for the protection of the environment and public health is no longer a priority of the federal government.