In 1972, Congress enacted the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly known as the Clean Water Act (CWA) (1990, 33 USC §§1251-1387). The primary purpose of the act is "to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters (CWA §101[a], 33 USC §1251[a]). Additionally, the act set forth numerous goals and policies related to protecting the nation's waters including (CWA §101[a][1], 33 USC §1251 [a][1]):

To eliminate discharge into navigable waters To protect fish, shellfish, and wildlife To provide for recreation in and on the U.S. waters To prohibit the discharge of toxic pollutants in toxic amounts

To develop and implement programs to control nonpoint sources of pollution

Specifically, the 1972 act targeted the elimination of pollutant discharges into navigable waters by 1985. This original deadline was not achieved. The act's subsequent amendments, however, extended the deadlines and attempted to adopt more realistic goals and solutions to the water pollution problem.

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