Clean water is everybody's business
Since the creation of the Clean Water Act in 1972, the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination Systems (NPDES) program has been a major force in the nation’s efforts to protect and restore the quality of our rivers, lakes, and coastal waters. Thirty years ago, only one-third of our waters were considered healthy. Today, approximately two-thirds are healthy. The program has brought a wide range of environmental, recreational, and economic benefits to millions of Americans.
The NPDES program faces at least two significant challenges in the near future. First, we must safeguard our gains in water quality and strive to improve those waters still impaired by pollution. Increases in population and development will stress infrastructure, threatening the progress the nation has made. This will make future improvements to water quality more difficult to achieve. Second, the NPDES program must extend its influence beyond the traditional boundaries of the program to promote comprehensive solutions to the diverse and complex problems that continue to threaten the quality of the nation’s waters.
Water quality protection is becoming increasingly complex—scientifically and socially. This plan and succeeding iterations must address this complexity by adapting to new information, emerging science and technology, and the evolving needs of stakeholders. States, tribes, municipalities, industry, agriculture, and citizens can use this plan as guide to become active partners in the NPDES program and more broadly, in protecting and restoring the nation’s watersheds.