Clean water: 45 years & no turning back

On the 45th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, Oregon Environmental Council shines a spotlight on the work still needed to protect clean water for our communities, our economy, and future generations. Read Executive Director Andrea Durbin’s op-ed for The Oregonian/Oregonlive


Today marks the 45th anniversary of the Clean Water Act, the landmark law that was designed to protect and restore the integrity of our nation’s waters. It should be a cause for celebration – we’ve come a long way since the days when the Willamette River was a dumping ground for raw sewage and industrial waste.

Since passage of the Clean Water Act, Oregonians have used the law to push the state, cities, and industry to protect the places we love and hold polluters accountable. In the 1980s, Oregon was the first in the country to set specific limits on the discharge of municipal and industrial waste to improve the Tualatin River Watershed. In 2011, Oregon adopted some of the country’s strictest water quality standards to protect human health, taking into account for the first time American Indians’ higher rates of fish consumption. And just this year, the Oregon Environmental Quality Commission approved the first Outstanding Resource Waters designation in all of Oregon, Washington, Idaho and Alaska – the North Fork of the Smith River Watershed in southwestern Oregon.

As this state has done on clean cars, the bottle bill and land use, Oregon has been a leader on protecting and investing in clean water for the health of our communities, the security of our economy and future generations. Today, we applaud the organizations, agencies, and sovereign tribes that drove these achievements forward for the benefit of all Oregonians.

And while we celebrate, this anniversary is also a call to action. Recent headlines have revealed that Oregon has the second-worst water quality permit backlog in the country.Warming rivers contribute to toxic algae blooms and are affecting the recovery of endangered fish. Increasing numbers of wildfires and aging infrastructure will threaten drinking water supplies for millions of Oregonians. And in many areas, officials have promised more water than nature can provide.

Today we face a new set of water challenges that continue to threaten our health, our economy, and our way of life. Now is not the time to slow down or roll back the fight for clean water.

We call on our Congressional leaders to stand strong for clean water protections that affect the drinking water of millions of Oregonians and ensure that federal agencies have the funding needed to adequately meet clean water goals. That includes funding for programs that ensure safe drinking water for all, improve rural drinking water and stormwater systems, and support watershed restoration and agricultural conservation efforts.

The Clean Water Act is visionary and its goals ambitious. In Oregon, we have a history of coming together to make a difference for our environment. And recent polls show that people are more concerned about their water than ever. While clean water hangs in the balance in Washington, D.C., it’s time to harness that public support to invest as a state in the health of our children and future generations.

As we celebrate the 45th anniversary of this important law, our next big task is building the will to put the solutions to today’s water problems into action.

Learn more about how the Clean Water Act has shaped Oregon and where we need to go next.

Related Posts
Filter by
Post Page
Featured Earth Day Water News OEC News/Updates/Events Policy Climate Protection
Sort by

Celebrating 50 Years of Earth Day

April 22, 2020 marks the 50th anniversary of Earth Day! OEC is proud to be a nonprofit partner with Earth Day Oregon this year. The environmental movement has come such a long way since Earth Day began 50 years ago. Here in Oregon, OEC and our
March 2, 2020, 9:00 am


Celebrating 45 Years of Clean Water

Can you imagine a time when the Willamette River ran red? When healthy fish died within minutes of being released in its waters? When liquid waste and sewage flowed toward the Columbia from Eugene, Corvallis, Salem, Portland and all of the towns in between? This is what the Willamette and many of Oregon’s rivers looked like b
October 17, 2017, 7:37 pm


The Future of Clean Energy Is Bright: How Oregon Solar Could Go from 1% to 10% in 10 Years

It’s an exciting time to be alive. From amazing medical developments, like bionic prosthetics and the ability to grow entirely new organs from stem cells, to advancements in technology that have enabled us to find ice on Mars and break the petaflop barrier, and expansions in clean energy technology that have resulted in its widespread availability and affordability – we’re living in a fast-paced, constantly developing world. When it comes to
April 24, 2017, 8:33 am


People floating on the Willamette River

Turning toward the river

June 16, 2018, 1:37 am


Turning Trash Into Low Carbon Treasure

A guest blog post by David Babson, Union of Concerned Scientists The United States generates more than 250 million tons of trash and more than 9 trillion gallons of wastewater each year, and these wastes are not well managed. Nearly two thirds of our solid waste ends up in landfills where it decomposes to generate greenhouse gases that are emitted into the atmosphere. In all, the waste management sector is the third largest source of climate
September 23, 2015, 8:14 pm


No Replies to "Clean water: 45 years & no turning back"