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Sierra Club Water Sentinels

Water Quality

We are the water planet. Every living organism on Earth depends on clean water for its health and survival.

Unfortunately, the quality of waters in almost every quarter of the United States has been polluted and, in some cases, to dangerous levels.

In response to the condition of our waters, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act, was enacted by Congress in 1972. The purpose of the Clean Water Act is to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters by preventing water pollution sources, providing assistance to publicly owned treatment works for the improvement of wastewater treatment, and maintaining the integrity of wetlands.

While we have made progress in cleaning up our waters, there is still much work to be done. The Environmental Protection Agency estimates that 39 percent of rivers and streams, 45 percent of lakes and reservoirs, and 51 percent of estuaries do not meet water-quality standards. Moreover, scientific research indicates that as many as 19.5 million Americans become ill each year from microbiological water contamination (bacteria, parasites, and viruses). An untold number of people suffer both acute and chronic illnesses from water pollution caused by nitrogen and phosphorus and by toxic chemicals. Additionally, many of our inland and coastal waters are so polluted that they will not support aquatic life.

It is essential that we work together to ensure we protect waters that are not impaired and to improve water quality where standards are not being met. Through its water-quality monitoring program, public education, and citizen action, the Water Sentinels are the first line of defense working to improve the quality of America's waters. Please join us.

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