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Almost 50 years with The Clean Water Act: Analyzing Federal & State Enforcement Approaches and Trends


The impact of the Clean Water Act (CWA) on U.S. waterways and surface water bodies has been significant over the last 47 years and one that should not be overlooked. At its passing in 1972, on the heels of an oil slick catching fire on Ohio’s Cuyahoga River in June 1969, only 40% of the nation’s water was considered safe for fishing and swimming, not to mention drinking and other beneficial uses. Today, the percentage has reached 60% because of regulation.

From 2009 through 2018, Bluefield identified 140,730 state and federal enforcement actions. Of this total, 96% were issued by state agencies rather than by federal authorities. This current imbalance reflects a demonstrable shift in enforcement management from federal authorities to state agencies over the last 25 years.

This Data Insight aims to demonstrate key trends in regulatory enforcement by government type and geography. Bluefield water experts analyze:

  • U.S. Clean Water Act Overview
  • Federal Enforcement Trends
  • State Enforcement Trends
  • Regional Profiles (State Enforcement Actions)


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$2500

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