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Across the United States, Waters in Crisis


A gerry can is filled with tap water at a distribution site in the Kibera slum of Nairobi, Kenya. (AFP/File/Roberto Schmidt)

WASHINGTON - Over the last years, up to 60
percent of lakes, rivers, streams, and drinking water sources across
the United States have lost crucial environmental protections at the
hands of polluters, developers, and the U.S. Supreme Court.

"Without immediate action in Congress,
a generation of progress in cleaning up our nation's waters may be
lost," says a new report by seven U.S.-based environmental advocacy

"When Congress passed the Clean Water Act in 1972, our [U.S.] waters were in dire shape," states the report, "Courting Disaster: How the Supreme Court Has Broken the Clean Water Act and Why Congress Must Fix It" [pdf]. "The Cuyahoga River
had caught fire several times, Lake Erie was all but devoid of life,
oil spills commonly occurred on our coasts, and industrial polluters
treated rivers and lakes as open sewers." For almost 30 years, however,
broad application of the Clean Water Act led to a significant clean up
of U.S. waters and a notable slowing of wetland loss. But beginning in
2001, a series of Supreme Court
and government agency rulings derided critical regulations, inciting
environmental groups to now demand immediate action from lawmakers.

"Clean water depends on the health of all water bodies, from small streams, to woodland vernal pools, to our greatest rivers, lakes, and coastal waters," write Earthjustice, Environment America, Clean Water Action, National Wildlife Federation, Natural Resources Defense Council, Sierra Club,
and Southern Environmental Law Center in "Courting Disaster." To read
more about the intersection of water, sanitation, rights, and
development worldwide, visit's water and sanitation guide.

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