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MARCH 22, 2022

Orange County Coastkeeper Celebrates the Clean Water Act’s 50th Anniversary on World Water Day

March 22, 2022 (Orange County, CA) — As the United States approaches the 50th anniversary of the Clean Water Act (CWA), Orange County Coastkeeper celebrates cleaner waters and pushes for a more powerful act.

The ACT50 initiative, which kicks off on World Water Day on March 22 and runs through the CWA milestone anniversary on October 18, highlights the many CWA victories, while also advocating for the law to go even further in protecting waterways from pollution and degradation. This campaign is part of a national effort coordinated by Waterkeeper Alliance—a global movement that connects and supports nearly 350 Waterkeeper organizations and Affiliates in 47 countries on six continents.

The CWA was passed into law on October 18, 1972. Before that time, two-thirds of all lakes, rivers, and coastal waters were unsafe for fishing or swimming, and 41% of water systems failed to meet the U.S. Public Health Service standards. Americans witnessed these atrocities first-hand when the Cuyahoga River caught fire in 1969. The CWA has led to remarkable turnarounds in watersheds throughout the country. However, more needs to be done to protect American waterways. The original act set a goal of restored American waterways by 1983. Today, 85% of California’s waterways are still classified as impaired. Specifically, Waterkeeper Alliance is prioritizing the following key issues:

  • “Waters of the United States” definition
  • Concentrated animal feeding operations, or CAFOs; and agricultural pollution
  • Nonpoint source and stormwater pollution
  • Emerging contaminants and plastic pollution

Locally, Orange County Coastkeeper advocates for all these CWA improvement goals in distinct ways. Coastkeeper’s legal team has spent countless hours researching non-dairy CAFOs and their impact on California water quality. Developing a strong, statewide non-dairy CAFO permit will take years of continued pressure by Coastkeeper.

On the topic of nonpoint source and stormwater pollution, The Santa Ana Water Board is currently renewing an updated joint municipal separate storm sewer system permit (MS4) that will reach across Orange, Riverside, and San Bernadino counties. Coastkeeper is concerned that this new all-in-one permit will be weaker than the current county-specific permits.

“The Clean Water Act is the foundation of clean water advocacy, but it’s not perfect,” said Garry Brown, Founder and President of Orange County Coastkeeper. “Under the current act’s restrictions, several vulnerable waterways around Orange County don’t qualify for protection. We need to change that to safeguard our community’s most precious resource.”

For interview or background information, please contact Matt Sylvester at or 714-345-8051.



ABOUT ORANGE COUNTY COASTKEEPER: Orange County Coastkeeper is a member of Waterkeeper Alliance, which supports over 350 different independent programs across 47 countries. Founded in 1999, the mission of Coastkeeper is to protect and promote sustainable water resources that are swimmable, drinkable, and fishable. Coastkeeper is a nonprofit clean water organization that serves as a proactive steward of our fresh- and saltwater ecosystems. Coastkeeper addresses water issues impacting Riverside and San Bernardino counties through our Inland Empire Waterkeeper and Coachella Valley Waterkeeper programs. We work collaboratively with diverse groups in the public and private sectors to achieve healthy, accessible, and sustainable water resources for the region. We implement innovative, effective programs in education, advocacy, restoration, research, enforcement, and conservation. For more information, visit or call 714-850-1965.