Environmental law comprises of ‘interlocking statutes, common law, treaties, conventions, regulations and policies’ which target at conserving naturally existing resources from adverse effects initiated by human activities. In United States for instance, a number of environmental laws have been enacted by the Federal governments and one such law is Clean Water Act. It was enacted in 1972 as a modification of the 1948’s Federal Water Pollution Control Act due to public concerns about water pollution.
However, it was until 1977 amendments that the law was fully referred to as Clean Water Act. Amendments of the Act included; policies to control discharge of pollutants into United States waters, go-ahead for relevant authorities to oversee implementation of pollution control specifications, maintenance of water quality control standards, discharging effluent into any water body was illegitimated, and modification to acknowledge addressing non-point source water pollution (Gruber, 1999). Later on, the law was amended in 1987 and 1990 to diversify controls measures.
This time, it targeted at controlling level of toxic pollutants and hazards caused by oil spills respectively. Clean Water Act forms the basis for controlling water pollution resulting from discharge effluents as well as establishment of quality control specifications. In United States, EPA is responsible for overseeing implementation of Clean Water Act through programs, for instance limits within which industrial wastewater may be discharged into water bodies (Keller & Cavallaro, 2008).
Since the law was enacted, it has continued to gain socio-political support from both the government and the social sector. Nevertheless, the some of the key challenges has been evaluating the effectiveness of Clean Water Act in improving water quality. This has been facilitated by the failure to compile and assess data from industries that discharge effluents into water bodies with respect to period since the law was enacted. To implement environmental laws such as Clean Water Act comes at a cost and it is not easy especially a highly industrialized country like United States.
For instance, according to 2004 report by Environmental Protection Agency of U. S. A, the Clean Water Act costs the government at least $202. 5 billion. This financial support is directed towards accomplishing the objectives of the law in various federal states. To ensure correct use of the money, Environmental Protection Agency gathers data from wastewater treatment plants, non-point source pollution controls, storm water and Combined Sewer Overflow plants, and both decentralized wastewater and estuary management.
Afterwards, it forwards the Clean Watersheds Needs Survey Report to the United States Congress for budgetary allocation and assessment of environmental issues (Adler, Landman, & Cameron, 1993). Nevertheless, Lyon and Stein (2009) in their work acknowledge effectiveness of Clean Water Act in Southern California from 1971 to 2000. Since 1970, the coastal population grew by almost 57% whereas volume of effluent rose by 31%, but the after the passage of Clean Water Act in 1972, the level of water pollutants reduced by more than 65% on average.
In this case study, point source pollutants were mostly identified as public-owned water treatments plants before 1971 but after Clean Water Act was enacted, they recorded drastic reductions. Although Clean Water Act has succeeded in controlling point-source water pollution, its biggest challenge has been in mitigating non-point source water pollution for instance surface run-offs. This is largely contributed by lack of proper monitoring and data collection thus complicating efficient assessment of non-point source pollution (Lyon & Stein, 2008).
Reduction in water pollution results in decreased water treatment costs and thus reflects low costs of clean water. Hence, considering the implication of Clean Water Act in some of the states such as California, it is worthy to say that the environmental law is effective in United States. However, such laws can only bear fruits if all stakeholders (especially effluent dischargers) are involved in implementation. References Adler, R. W. , Landman, J. C. & Cameron, D. M. (1993). The clean water act: 20 years later. Washington, D. C: Natural Resources Defense Council, Island Press.
Gruber, D. (1999). The U. S. clean water act and the application of microbiotests to demonstrate compliance. Environmental Toxicology, 15, 300-420. Keller, A. A. & Cavallaro, L. (2008). Assessing the US Clean Water Act 303(d) listing process for determining impairment of a water body. Journal of Environmental Management, 86(4), 699-711. Lyon, G. S. , & Stein, E. D. (2008) How effective has the Clean Water Act been at reducing pollutant mass emissions to the Southern California Bight over the past 35 years? Environmental Monitoring and Assessment, 154(4), 413-426.