AS THE CLEAN WATER Act turns 40 this week, it is important to recognize the progress it fostered. In 1972, major urban rivers were noxious watercourses. It was normal practice to regard such waters as convenient conveyances to transport wastes of industries and cities, with little regard for ecological and human consequences.
The CWA had the ambitious goal of making all waters of the United States "fishable and swimmable." While we still not have achieved this 100 percent, there has been remarkable transformation. In many U.S. cities, including Philadelphia, urban rivers, streams and lakes are regarded as important amenities for which premium price for living in proximity is often commanded.