About Clean Water
During the late 1960s water pollution was spreading virtually unchecked in many parts of the country, with a burning Cuyahoga River in northeast Ohio and dead Lake Erie among the visible examples of much wider problems. Clean Water Action founder David Zwick, working with consumer advocate Ralph Nader, published Water Wasteland in 1971. The book was a two-year study of the nation's water pollution problems and concluded that a major reason for widespread water pollution was the power of polluters to work their political will.
In 1972, with funding from two fishing tackle companies in New Jersey and Iowa, Zwick started what was to become one of the nation's largest grassroots environmental organizations, Clean Water Action. In order to remedy the power imbalance favoring polluters, the group's leaders outlined a strategy called people-based power, in which a grassroots campaign - including issue awareness methods like door-to-door canvassing - was launched. The fledgling organization's ambitious goal was to enact many of Water Wasteland's platforms of recommended changes into law. When the Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments of 1972, commonly known as the Clean Water Act, was passed by Congress the initial policy goals that animated Clean Water Action's founding were realized.
Passage of the original 1972 Clean Water Act, with many of the law's most important parts drafted by Clean Water Action, has been followed by other major successes. They include enactment of the federal Safe Drinking Water Act in 1974 and subsequent changes in 1996 that strengthened the law. Clean Water Action's successful defense in 1977 of the Clean Water Act's wetlands protection program was won by a single vote in the U.S. Senate.
In the 1980s, Clean Water Action overcame a major assault on the federal Superfund toxic waste cleanup program and helped to win funding increases and a polluter-pay plan along with a requirement that companies report their toxic releases on an annual basis. That disclosure requirement has been credited with producing dramatic reductions in toxic emissions.