Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments of 1972 (Clean Water Act)

The Clean Water Act is the primary federal law in the United States governing water pollution.

Commonly abbreviated as the CWA, the act established the goals of eliminating releases to water of high amounts of toxic substances, eliminating additional water pollution by 1985, and ensuring that surface waters would meet standards necessary for human sports and recreation by 1983.
The principal body of law currently in effect is based on the Federal Water Pollution Control Amendments of 1972, which significantly expanded and strengthened earlier legislation. Major amendments were enacted in the Clean Water Act of 1977 and the Water Quality Act of 1987.

The 1972 amendments to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (known as the Clean Water Act or CWA) provide the statutory basis for the NPDES permit program and the basic structure for regulating the discharge of pollutants from point sources to waters of the United States. Section 402 of the CWA specifically required EPA to develop and implement the NPDES program.

The CWA gives EPA the authority to set effluent limits on an industry-wide (technology-based) basis and on a water-quality basis that ensure protection of the receiving water. The CWA requires anyone who wants to discharge pollutants to first obtain an NPDES permit, or else that discharge will be considered illegal.