The Clear Water Act
Before jumping into details regarding the Clear Water Act of 1972, we have to talk a bit about it's predecessor, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948. This act was the first major U.S law that cover water contamination. Before that, the authorities tried numerous times to pass some legislation that protect waters, but the fail. World War II catapulted urban and industrial growth, but as the population and industrial advances grew so did concerns due to the amount of garbage of all sorts that ended up in the rivers and streams. It was obvious that something had to be done, the currently valid federal water Pollution Control Act was becoming obsolete. In 1972 the old act was expanded and reorganized to better meet the new scenario, becoming what we know as Clear Water Act, other important amendments where made to the new Act in 1977.
Since 1972, the Clear Water of Act has been the primary federal law that governs over water pollution issues and regulates surface water quality standards. Manage by the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), the act's main goals is to eliminate and prevent the release of high amounts of toxic substances into surface water, ensuring that they keep on being usable for recreational purposes such as fishing, skiing and swimming.
The Clear Water Act protects all water with a "significant nexus" to navigable waters. This means the the act covers waters belonging to the United States such as lakes, streams, sloughs, potholes, marshes, morasses and wetlands. The 1972 act is mostly known because it introduced the National Pollutant Discharge System (NPDES), a permit-based system that regulates who disposes wastes and where. The NPDES establish this system on point sources, single and identifiable points where the water is polluted. Since then industrial facilities, municipal governments, feedlots and agricultural facilities are consider point sources for water pollution, and they can't dispose wastes without a permit issue by the state. Nowadays 46 states are authorized by EPA to issue permits, source points in those states that don't have authorization to grant permits,need to get them from the EPA regional office.