Clean Water Act marks 40th anniversary


1963 oil on minnesota river


Images from the past

A collection of photos showing how far we've come — and how the CWA is still relevant.

The nation's law for protecting our most irreplaceable resource has been especially valuable to water-rich Minnesota. And it continues to serve us well. Every person deserves clean water—it is vital for Minnesota’s health, communities, environment, and economy.

The Clean Water Act’s goal was simple: All waters should be swimmable and fishable where possible. The law established a federal-state partnership with the federal government setting objectives and providing funding while the states carry out the law’s provisions.

The Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, the state agency charged with executing the federal law, strives toward swimmable and fishable water every day. Our staff check the health of rivers and lakes; develop protection and restoration plans for water resources; work with local partners throughout the state; enforce stormwater, wastewater and feedlot laws; and work to ensure clean water here and downstream.

We have made great progress in reducing pollution during the past 40 years. But many challenges remain and we must work together to protect clean water for our families and future generations.

Over the next month, the MPCA will highlight the difference that the Clean Water Act makes to Minnesota.

Feature story

How’s the water? Better after 40 years of the Clean Water Act

Two massive oil spills into Minnesota rivers devastated fish and wildlife in the early 1960s. At the time, no laws required that spills be reported or cleaned up.

By the early 1970s, such catastrophes were becoming common. In Ohio, the Cuyahoga River in Cleveland was so polluted that it caught fire – for the tenth time. Lake Erie was dying from all the waste dumped into it.

Things took a major turn for the better 40 years ago when Congress passed the Clean Water Act. Read more.