Before the Clean Water Act of 1972, watersheds across the nation, including our own here in Philadelphia, were literal dumping grounds for industry, treatment plants and domestic households for generations. Sewage, bloody animal remains, oil and coal, chemical waste and garbage all made its way regularly into the water of many rivers, creeks, lakes and streams.
By the 1960s, these once-drinkable waterways which used to run wild and clean with migratory fish had become smelly toxic wastelands barren of all life. People sickened by the water, aquatic creatures and plants died, birds were entirely absent and several profitable industries came to a halt because the rivers were inaccessible with waste.
Something had to be done about the state of our rivers and streams.
Scientists at the Academy joined forces with communities near and far, as well as many other environmental organizations and governmental agencies to help develop and advocate for the Clean Water Act — a revolutionary federal movement to protect our waters, its wildlife and the people who live all along them from life-threatening pollution.
Fifty years later, thanks to the regulations, funding and standards of the Clean Water Act and the hard work of many people, our Delaware River watershed and all its tributaries — as well as rivers and streams across the nation — are sources of drinking water for millions of people, iconic destinations for weddings and events, locations of leisure and sport and overall healthier waterways filled with thriving aquatic organisms.
But the Clean Water Act is only the beginning of healthy and sustainable water for everyone. Learn more about how you can continue to help protect our waters in the United States and keep them safe, drinkable and inviting places filled with life — now and for the future.
The Amazing Impacts of Clean Water Near Philadelphia 15M people are provided drinking water from the Delaware River alone 40 species of fish live in the 135-mile-long Schuylkill River 1.3M fishing licenses and permits given out yearly in Pennsylvania, home to 6 major river basins 75 local schools are members of Philadelphia's rowing organization 8K weddings are held yearly in Philadelphia alone, many of which take place at popular destinations along our two rivers 18 miles are dedicated to the Schuylkill River Trail for bikers, walkers and runners 2.5K cargo ships arrive yearly at the Delaware River Port Complex in the Philadelphia region, one of the largest shipping areas of the United States