Water Quality: Implementing the Clean Water Act Page: 4 of 19
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MOST RECENT DEVELOPMENTS
Before the August congressional recess, the House and Senate passed legislation
providing FY2006 funding for EPA, including funds for water quality programs (P.L. 109-
54). Congress agreed to provide $887 million for grants to capitalize clean water state
revolving funds (SRFs), $157 million more than the Administration requested for FY2006,
but 18.7% less than the FY2005 appropriated level for this popular program. In addition to
funds for SRF grants, the FY2006 appropriation also includes $281 million for
congressionally earmarked water infrastructure project grants. For FY2007, the President's
budget, released in February, requests $687.6 million for clean water SRF grants, 22% less
than FY2006 funding.
In July, Congress passed the conference report on energy policy legislation, H.R. 6 (P.L.
109-58); one provision (Section 323) provides a permanent exemption from stormwater
runoff rules for the construction of exploration and production facilities by oil and gas
companies or the roads that service those sites.
BACKGROUND AND ANALYSIS
The Act and Most Recent Amendments
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act, or Clean Water Act, is the principal law
concerned with polluting activity in the nation's streams, lakes, and estuaries. Originally
enacted in 1948, it was totally revised by amendments in 1972 (P.L. 92-500) that gave the
act its current form and spelled out ambitious programs for water quality improvements that
are now being put in place by industries and cities. Congress made certain fine-tuning
amendments in 1977 (P.L. 95-217) and 1981 (P.L. 97-117) and enacted comprehensive
amendments in 1987 (P.L. 100-4).
The act consists of two major parts: regulatory provisions that impose progressively
more stringent requirements on industries and cities in order to meet the statutory goal of
zero discharge of pollutants, and provisions that authorize federal financial assistance for
municipal wastewater treatment construction. Industries were to meet pollution control
limits first by use of Best Practicable Technology and later by improved Best Available
Technology. Cities were to achieve secondary treatment of municipal wastewater (roughly
85% removal of conventional wastes), or better if needed to meet water quality standards.
Both major parts are supported by research activities authorized in the law, plus permit and
penalty provisions for enforcement. Programs are administered by the Environmental
Protection Agency (EPA), while state and local governments have the principal day-to-day
responsibility for implementing the law. (For additional information, see CRS Report
RL30030, Clean Water Act: A Summary of the Law.)
The most recent major amendments to the law are the Water Quality Act of 1987 (P.L.
100-4). These amendments culminated six years of congressional efforts to extend and
revise the act and were the most comprehensive amendments to it since 1972. They
recognize that, despite much progress to date, significant water quality problems persist.
Among its many provisions, the 1987 legislation: (1) established a comprehensive program
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Water Quality: Implementing the Clean Water Act, report, February 28, 2006; Washington D.C.. (digital.library.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metadc817299/m1/4/: accessed October 18, 2018), University of North Texas Libraries, Digital Library, digital.library.unt.edu; crediting UNT Libraries Government Documents Department.