50% of U.S. Lakes and Rivers Are Too Polluted for Swimming, Fishing, Drinking

Credits: Flickr/James Chen

The Clean Water Act was passed 50 years ago by the United States. Its goal was to ensure that all water in the U.S. is “fishable and swimmable” by 1983.

A new report by the Environmental Integrity Project (EIP), shows that the country has fared poorly in achieving this goal. Almost half of the country’s rivers and lakes are unsafe for swimming, fishing, or drinking.

This report was based upon reports that states must submit under the Clean Water Act regarding the pollution levels in their rivers, streams, and lakes. The most recent reports indicate that more than half the rivers and lakes are “impaired,” which means they do not meet standards for swimming, fishing, aquatic life, and drinking.

According to The Hill, this means that around 51 percent of streams and 55 percent of lakes are impaired. Additionally, 26 percent are impaired in estuary miles.

When it was adopted in 1972, the Clean Water Act was a landmark legislation achievement. According to the press release, it promised to stop the discharge of pollutants into navigable water by 1985. According to the report, however, it failed to meet this goal for many reasons.

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The report also analyzed pollution by state. Indiana has the highest number of streams and rivers that are too impaired to be used for recreation and swimming.

Florida had the largest number of lakes that were not suitable for swimming or aquatic life.

There were many solutions in the report that went beyond ensuring that the EPA and the other agencies comply with the law, to strengthen the act through new legislation to reduce runoff pollution.

This is especially important as agricultural runoff and indirect pollution are the main causes of waterway contamination.