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WWRC 96-10
Water Quality Policy and the Park City Principles


The Federal Water Pollution Control Act Amendments of 1972 made protection of water quality a national objective to be achieved through a nationally designed, federally supervised program. Enactment of this law marked the culmination of a twenty-four year process that began in 1948 with the first tentative federal involvement in water quality matters. Now another twenty-four years have passed under the new regime, marked by impressive improvements in water quality across the country. Despite these widely acknowledged water quality gains, proposals for making major changes in what is now known as the Clean Water Act abound. Congress is in the midst of one of its periodic reauthorizations of the Clean Water Act, prompting much of the motivation for these discussions.

This paper applies the Park City Principles to the existing system of water quality protection under the Clean Water Act. It begins with a brief overview of the legal framework governing water quality protection. It then turns to a general consideration of the Park City Principles in relation to this legal framework. Next it applies the Park City Principles to selected portions of a bill passed by the U.S. House of Representatives in 1995 to amend the Clean Water Act. Finally it assesses the effectiveness of the Park City Principles in evaluating federal water quality policy.

The Park City Workshops represent an attempt through a consensus process to find guiding principles that should shape and define water policy. In turn, the Powell Consortium sought to test these principles in relation to selected water policies. This paper focuses on existing federal policy for managing the sources of water quality degradation that impair desired uses of water. The paper begins with a introduction to the Clean Water Act.

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