The Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) is perhaps the strongest, most effective federal law available to ensure that streams, wetlands, and lakes are protected and restored. One of the important recurring themes throughout the CWA is the importance of meaningful participation on the part of people who know and value local waters. Prairie Rivers Network continuously fights for the effective and full implementation of the Clean Water Act, but we need your help too. Prairie Rivers Network calls on you to join us in taking on this responsibility.

OpportunitiesĀ for citizensĀ to protect their waters through the CWA include:

Strengthening Water Pollution Permits (NPDES Program) – Water pollution permits (National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System or NPDES permitting) are required for anyone who discharges pollution into Illinois rivers to assure that the discharge will not violate water quality standards set by the CWA.

Protecting Wetlands and Stream Habitats – Under Section 404 of the CWA, anyone who hopes to fill a wetland, channelize a stream, or otherwise fill a portion of a water with sediment, must obtain a “404 permit” from the US Army Corps of Engineers (Corps). The Corps must assure that each permit it issues complies with guidelines developed together by the Corps and the US Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA).

Controlling Stormwater Pollution – The water pollution permitting program of the CWA requires that dirt be maintained on construction sites to the extent possible and states that construction sites may not contribute to stream impairments. To comply with the law, each construction site must develop and implement a Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plan that describes the techniques the contractor will use to prevent soil from leaving the site.

Restoring Degraded Waters (TMDL Program) – The CWA Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program requires that states and EPA identify impaired waters and develop clean-up plans (TMDLs) for those waters.

Improving Water Quality Standards – The CWA requires water quality standards to be defined to insure “water quality which provides for the protection of fish, shellfish, and wildlife and provides for recreation in and on the water…” At least once every three years, IEPA is required to conduct a review of the standards and solicit public input on the standards.

Ending Coal Mines Exemptions from Water Pollution Standards – Coal mines are exempted from meeting water quality standards in the State of Illinois. This includes exempting mines from the antidegradation rules that were recently adopted to bring Illinois into compliance with the Clean Water Act antidegradation requirements.