Checking the conventional wisdom on the Clean Water Act

The conventional wisdom about the US Clean Water Act (which I’ve always believed) is that it’s been a great success. Maybe not?

On the fortieth anniversary of the Clean Water Act this paper reports the first quantitative assessment of the aggregate trends in water quality in the U.S. using a single standard over the years 1975 to 2011. The analysis suggests that fresh water lakes for the nation as a whole are about at the same quality levels as they were in 1975. In short, viewed in the aggregate, nothing has changed.


  1. viewed in the aggregate, nothing has changed.

    Well, human population has changed. Consumption patterns have changed. Fertilizer use has changed. Impervious surface amount has changed. With all that pressure, had nothing been done WQ would be much worse…



  2. Dano, that’s exactly what I was wondering. During her campaign for the GOP nomination Michele Bachmann said we can dismantle the EPA because it’s done its job and cleaned up the environment. That struck me as (typically) thoughtless….

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