Clean Water Action

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Clean Water Action
Founded 1972
Area served
United States
1 million
Slogan Fighting for healthy communities and clean safe water from watershed to water tap.

Clean Water Action, an organization of 1 million members, organizes grassroots groups and coalitions to protect America's waters, build healthy communities and support environmental legislation and political candidates.[2] Created in 1972, Clean Water Action focuses on canvassing and gaining support for political issues and candidates. It is a 501(c)(4) organization. Its counterpart, the Clean Water Fund is dedicated to research and education and is a 501(c)(3) organization.[3]


Clean Water Action works directly with citizens of the United States, encouraging individuals to become involved in local, state and national political and environmental issues through:

  • National Leadership – Clean Water Action drafts, supports and defends national and state-level water and environmental laws.[4]
  • Community Organization – State-based offices address local and regional environmental problems and identify solutions from the community level.[5]
  • Individual Outreach – Individual and collective action through community organizing and public education through canvassing makes a difference locally, regionally and nationally.[6]
  • Lobbying- canvassers go out and get signatures to petition the government and educate citizens about which candidates they should support, activate people to write letter to their representatives expressing concern for specific environmental issues and urging them to support or not support specific bills.[7]

Clean Water Representatives strengthened by Clean Water Action members directly lobby public representatives at the State House and Federal Senate.

  • Community Outreach and Fundraising- dedicated full and part-time canvassers organize communities in 12 states, door-to-door, to achieve self-sustaining community funding, challenge supporters to write letters or make telephone calls to elected representatives, transmit campaign updates and action related material, and get petitions signed.[8]


David Zwick was a young law school student when Ralph Nader recruited him to a task force researching water pollution problems. After a two-year tour of America's most polluted waters, Zwick authored Water Wasteland and then founded Clean Water Action to address the issues outlined in his book.[9] Zwick transformed Clean Water Action into a grassroots organization while continuing to drive the lobbying work forward in Washington, where he was influential in the clean water debates. He contributed to key sections of the Clean Water Act, including the citizen suit provision, which allows members of the public to enforce the law when the government fails to.[2]


During the late 1960s water pollution was spreading in many parts of the country, with a burning Cuyahoga River in northeast Ohio and biologically dead Lake Erie among the visible examples of much wider problems.[10]

1969 - David Zwick joins Ralph Nader's water pollution task force.[2]

1971 - Water Wasteland is published. David Zwick joined forces with Ralph Nader to publish Water Wasteland in 1971. The result of a two-year study into water quality issues in the United States, Water Wasteland concluded that spreading water pollution was directly linked with the increasing political strength of industrial polluters.[2]

1972 - Clean Water Action is launched. The fledgling organization's goal was to enact many of Water Wasteland's platforms of recommended changes into law. To reach this goal, Zwick outlined a grassroots strategy of door-to-door canvassing and public education.[2]

1972 - Clean Water Act becomes law.[11] In October 1972, a bipartisan majority of the U.S. Congress passed the Clean Water Act over a veto by President Richard M. Nixon.

1974 - Safe Drinking Water Act is passed.

1980 - Superfund established. Superfund -- the environmental program established to address abandoned hazardous waste sites—is established by the Comprehensive Environmental Response, Compensation and Liability Act of 1980. This law allows the EPA to clean up toxic sites and to compel responsible parties to perform cleanups or reimburse the government for EPA-lead cleanups.[12]

1986 - Superfund Amendments and Reauthorization Act (SARA) passed. Clean Water Action, the United States Public Interest Research Group and the National Campaign Against Toxic Hazards published a report claiming the Environmental Protection Agency was failing to properly enforce the federal Superfund toxic waste cleanup program.[13] As a result, SARA was passed into law on October 17, 1986.[14]

2008 - Northeast states hold first carbon auction. In the first auction of its kind, the Regional Greenhouse Gas Initiative auctioned off more than 12 million CO2 emission allowances to 59 participating power plants on September 25, 2008.[15] In its first auction, RGGI collected $3.07 for each emission allowance, netting $38,575,783 in proceeds.[16]

Current projects[edit]

Protecting the Clean Water Act
In 2003, the Bush EPA proposed to amend the Act in a manner that would have significantly reduced its effectiveness to protect the United States' waters.[17] Clean Water Action and allies generated over 100,000 letters and calls, forcing EPA to withdraw the proposed rule changes.[18]

Then, in 2006, the United States Supreme Court ruled in Rapanos v. United States that the Clean Water Act protects waters only if regulators can prove a "significant nexus" to a body of navigable water.[19] Intended as a compromise between two differing opinions, this ruling has stalled the regulatory process.[20] As a result, the federal Environmental Protection Agency has dropped or delayed more than 400 cases of suspected environmental violations.[21] In response, Clean Water Action supports the passage of the Clean Water Restoration Act.[22]

The Clean Water Restoration Act (CWRA)
The passage of the Clean Water Restoration Act will return environmental protections to currently unprotected bodies of water.[21] The bill was introduced into the House on May 22, 2007 with 158 co-sponsors as H.R. 2421.[23] Two months later, the Senate introduced the bill as S. 1870[24] on July 25, 2007.

See also[edit]


  • David Zwick, Water Wasteland: Ralph Nader's study group report on water pollution, (Bantam Books, 1972).


External links[edit]