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Clean Water Act Legal Research: Overview

A legal resource guide for information relating to the Clean Water Act (CWA) including primary and secondary source materials, quick links, and database resources.

In 1948 Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA), Pub. L. No. 80-845, 62 Stat. 1155, the nation's first major legislative attempt at regulating water pollution. In the wake of the burgeoning environmental movement of the late 1960's and early 1970's, the FWPCA saw significant amendments in 1972 by the Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972, Pub. L. No. 92-500, 86 Stat. 816, and again in 1977 under its new name -- the Clean Water Act (CWA), Pub. L. No. 95-217, 91 Stat. 1566. The CWA was amended again in 1987 by the Water Quality Act of 1987, Pub. L. No. 100-4, 101 Stat. 7. The main function of the CWA is set forth in its purpose section: to "restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters." Consequently the basic prohibition of the statute found in § 301 of the Act prohibits the discharge of any pollutant by any person without a permit. The CWA's regulatory framework includes two different types of permits: 1) a § 402 National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit issued by either the EPA or a state approved program; and 2) a § 404 Dredge and Fill permit issued by the Army Corps of Engineers.

The resources in this guide should be a starting point in your research. There are other materials available on your topic and this guide is intended to provide you with a good foundation for continuing your research into the CWA.

Assistant Dean of the Law Library

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Deborah L. Heller
Elisabeth Haub School of Law at Pace University
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