Without water, there can be no life. Freshwater availability is so essential that we judge the ability of other planets to sustain life by their availability of water1. Sixty-five percent of the human body is composed of waterWorthington-Roberts2, and we depend upon freshwater for our survival, livelihoods, and recreation. Water has influenced settlement patterns, made travel and navigation possible, and determines regional economic activities.
Only twenty-five percent of the world’s population has access to safe drinking water and many people risk death when consuming water. In developing countries, direct or indirect discharge of sewage, gasoline, oil, antifreeze, soaps, and paints make water unsafe for people and wildlife3. Human health is endangered by water-vectored diseases such as yellow-fever and malaria. Organic matter from sewage depletes oxygen in lower water layers, making the water uninhabitable to many species4. Furthermore, associated bacteria can cause diarrhea in babies, which is a leading cause of death worldwide5.
Until the later half of the nineteenth century, a cesspool-privy system was used to manage refuse. It was believed that sewage dumping posed no threat because running water was self-purifying. Urban areas depended on local ponds, streams, rainwater, and wells for their water supply8. As urban areas became more heavily populated, demand for drinking water rose and sanitary hazards posed by sewage increased. During the 1800s, approximately half of all deaths were linked to water, air, or food vectored disease9.
In 1802, the first waterworks was
During the Progressive Movement, the public began pushing for increased public regulation of water supplies. By the early 1900s, some US cities had begun to use slow sand filtration as a safeguard against typhoid, dysentery, and cholera. Chlorine was first used as a primary disinfectant in 1908 in Jersey City, New Jersey10. By World War I, engineers had widely adopted the belief that filtration and chlorination could protect the public8.
The first federal legislation addressing water quality was the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1899. This law outlawed the dumping of solid waste into navigable waterways, but it was not enforced11. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948 established the basic legal authority for federal regulation of water quality. Its 1956 amendments strengthened enforcement by providing for abatement lawsuits and declaring that the Federal government did not need the consent of all the states to regulate water quality12.
Throughout the 1960s, growing evidence indicated that water quality required major attention. Rachel Carson’s Silent Spring was published, raw sewage was released into the San Francisco Bay13, Lake Erie was declared “dead”, and the Cuyahoga River in Ohio caught on fire14. Federal legislation also continued in the form of the Water Quality Act of 1965, which became the foundation for interstate water quality standards by providing for standards that are both state and federally enforceable. In 1966, the Clean Water Restoration Act was created, which imposed a 100 dollar daily fine for polluters who did not properly report their emissions12.
In 1972, the Federal Water Pollution Control Act was amended in response to the visible water quality problems of the 1960s. Amended again in 1977, this act became known as the Clean Water Act. The basic structure regulating pollution discharge into US waters was established, and discharge of contaminants by large point sources into navigable surface waters became illegal unless a permit was acquired. Federal funding for sewage treatment plant construction was established, and the need for nonpoint source pollution regulation was recognized. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was given authority to implement pollution control programs and set water quality standards for all contaminants. The Clean Water Act was later revised in 1981 to improve water treatment plants, and in 1987 to build EPA-State partnerships through the Clean Water State Revolving Fund15. Secondary treatment of waste water was required by 1977, and best available technology for pollution control was required by 198316.
The Clean Water Act has led to vast improvements in national water quality. From 1976 to 1986, cadmium, arsenic, and lead aquatic concentrations decreased between 50 and 63 percent. The required monitoring reports issued by EPA have helped to close the information gap and inform national and state decision making. Sewage treatment grants have resulted in a national trend of increased dissolved oxygen content in freshwater13.
The major deficiency of the Clean Water Act is its lack of control of non-point source pollution. Major difficulties in identifying, regulating, and monitoring nonpoint pollution sources such as farms, feed lots, sub developments, urban areas, and silviculture have halted progress. Although Clean Water Act Amendments establish federal assistance for state control of non-point sources and encourages voluntary control, these measures have had little real impact13.
The Safe Drinking Water Act, established in 1974, aimed to protect human health by regulating public water supplies. EPA was given authority to set national standards to protect against natural and anthropogenic contaminants based on human-health. The regulations apply to every public water system in the nation, and EPA, states, and suppliers share responsibility in meeting the requirements. Source water protection, treatment, maintenance of the distribution systems, and providing information are methods that the Safe Drinking Water Act uses, and the act is legally enforceable. The act was amended in 1986 and 1996. The 1996 amendments require cost-benefit analysis for new regulations, consumer confidence reports, operator certification, and source water assessment17.
Recently, water quality issues have received increased
international attention. In 1999, the United Nations (UN) and Economic
New debate has emerged about whether water services would be best managed through the public or private sector. Utility cost structures vary depending upon the percentage of water metered, customer density, the amount of water purchased, and the average size of each metered account. It remains unclear whether utility cost structures vary depending on public or private management21.
Nonpoint source pollution continues to be a
major problem for water quality in the
Also, concern has arisen regarding some of the Bush administration’s recent actions towards freshwater. Some environmentalists claim that “Quick-fill” permits for wetland construction are allowing development to take place without stringent environmental considerations. The Bush administration in 2002 mandated that the Army Corps of Engineers can issue permits for the dumping of mine waste, which may undermine the Clean Water Act. EPA recommended that national storm water standards address the major problem of urban storm water runoff, but the administration announced in 2002 that it would kill the proposed technology-based regulations23.
Water is essential to life in
Water has always been extremely
important to the
Upon gaining statehood in 1820,
During the industrial revolution,
Since the 1970s,
Economic decline in certain sectors
contributed to improving
The state legislature has also
played an important role in protecting the integrity of state waters. Today we
see the fruits of our labors in the high quality of
The Maine Legislature has written and passed many important Laws to protect surface and ground water. Over sixty percent of the households in Maine rely on groundwater to fulfill their drinking water requirements32. In 1985, the Maine Legislature required DEP to enact the Sand and Salt Pile Program. This legislation instructed DEP to prioritize sand and salt piles according to their impact on groundwater. Those piles that seriously threatened groundwater were required to be covered to prevent chloride contamination33.
To address the problem of non-point source pollution of groundwater, the Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Statute of 1991 was established. This act aims to implement best management practices to combat nonpoint source pollution34. Its methods include establishing liability for petroleum contamination of groundwater; enacting educational initiatives to make people aware of the dangers of their actions35, providing regulatory oversight, aiming to implement best management practices to combat non-point source pollution, providing regulatory oversight, and funding projects to reduce dangerous contamination34.
Another important state regulation is the Site Location of Development Law that was established in 1991 but later amended. Under this regulation, large or environmentally threatening developments require a permit from the Department of Environmental Protection and standards protecting the environment must be met36. The Storm Water Management Statute of 1995 required DEP to adopt rules regulating storm water in areas at risk due to new development. The 2001 Storm Water Statute that followed required large development projects to obtain a permit from DEP before construction is allowed. The restrictions also only apply to areas within a close proximity of areas at risk of eutrophication or other risks resulting from development37.
The most widespread issue affecting
Another serious issue to
One of the ways EPA assesses water quality is by evaluating
its support for designated beneficial uses such as drinking, swimming, fish
consumption, and aquatic life. Freshwater is designated as fully supporting,
supporting but threatened, partially supporting, or not supporting each
activity. Ideally, all of
Figure 4 displays the percentage of
Although overall freshwater quality is quite good compared
to national averages, many of
Figure 5 illustrates the trend in impairment of rivers and
streams caused by the two of the most powerful drivers: agriculture and urban and sewage system
runoff. The risk posed to our rivers and streams from agricultural sources is
increasing. This seems counterintuitive when we consider that the amount of land
By far, the most widespread problem in
Ambient mercury originates from mineral deposits, coal burning, waste incineration, landfills, mining activities, paint manufacturing, fluorescent lights, and thermometers. Unfortunately,
efforts, fish from every body of water in
DEP authored the Mercury in Maine Report in 1997. Among the
actions the report proposed was reducing the amount of mercury emitted by
industrial sources. Although federal regulations were expected in the near
future, DEP submitted a bill in 1998 to allow all sources to emit no more than
100 pounds of mercury each year annually beginning in 2000, and no more than 50
pounds annually beginning in 2004. The bill was signed in April, 1998 and
affected three major sources: HoltraChem, Regional Waste Systems of Portland, and
Mid-Maine Waste Action Corporation of
Mercury deposition has remained high despite successful state efforts to address
Another serious threat to
Figure 9 shows that the area of
Interestingly, fewer acres of lakes are being impaired by nutrients and oxygen enrichment while Figure 5 showed that impairment of rivers due to the drivers of eutrophication is increasing. This indicator suggests that more attention may be paid to addressing problems in lakes, ponds, and reservoirs than in rivers. One explanation of this trend may be the Storm Water Management Statute. This statute establishes strict standards for building impervious areas near bodies at water at risk from new development, especially those waters sensitive to eutrophication54. Since rivers are not threatened by eutrophication, they may not fully benefit from legislation to protect against the threat of urban runoff.
Excluding the problem of mercury
deposition, the state of
The problem of cultural eutrophication continues to threaten many bodies of water.
The number of small farms and urbanization are potential drivers of cultural eutrophication. The Storm water Management Law can be
credited for the progress in protecting vulnerable lakes from the threats of
nutrient loading and oxygen depletion as shown in Figure 9. Interestingly,
fewer acres of lakes are being impaired by nutrients and oxygen enrichment
while impairment of rivers due to the drivers of agriculture and urban and
sewage runoff is increasing. The Storm Water Management Statute addresses the
major driver of eutrophication: development near threatened areas. The
legislation has been quite effective:
lakes have benefited from strict environmental standards and problems
related to nutrient and dissolved oxygen impairment are decreasing. I would
recommend that riparian construction be subject to standards similar to those
that protect lakes in order to protect
Mercury contamination continues to plague our freshwater, fish, and human health. The state of Maine has taken drastic measures by regulating waste disposal, medical products, point sources, dental fillings, and automotive switches that contain mercury48. As shown in Figure 4, statewide mercury emissions have been virtually eliminated, yet Figure 5 shows that deposition of mercury remains an ongoing problem. The state laws and statutes regulating mercury have been quite effective in reducing internal emissions, but it appears that we cannot further improve mercury contamination through self-regulation.
Earlier this year, the Natural
Resources Council of Maine (NRCM) joined with two national groups to file suit
in U.S. District Court, contending that an EPA proposal to clean up mercury
pollution and delay the use of best available technology for mercury control
until 2007 violates the Clean Air Act. The plaintiffs seek an injunction
requiring the EPA to make a rule requiring best available pollution control
technology as soon as possible55. NRCM has also begun a door-to-door
campaign intended to educate the public about the risks of mercury pollution in
1. National Aeronautics and Space Administration. Mars, Water, and Life. 2004 (1998). <http://mars.jpl.nasa.gov/msp98/why.html>
2. Worthington-Roberts, B. in Microsoft Encarta Online Encyclopedia (Microsoft Corporation, 2004). <http://encarta.msn.com/encyclopedia_761556865/Human_Nutrition.html>
3. Vigil, K. Clean Water: An Introduction to Water Quality and Water Pollution Control (Oregon State University, Carvallis, 2003).
4. Harper, D. Eutrophication of Freshwaters: Principles, Problems, and Restoration (Chapman & Hall, London, 1992).
5. Pontius, F. W. in Water Quality and Treatment: A Handbook of Community Water Supplies 63-156 (McGraw-Hill, 1990).
6. National Academy of Sciences. Freshwater Ecosystems: Revitalizing Educational Programs in Limnology (National Academy Press, Washington D.C., 1996).
7. Gordon, R. Cost and Use of Water Power during Industrialization in New England and Great Britain: A Geological Interpretation. The Economic History Review 36, 240-259 (1983).
8. Tarr, J. M. I., Francis McMichael, Terry Yosie. Water and Wastes: A Retrospective Assessment of Wastewater Technology in the United States, 1800-1932. Technology and Culture 25, 226-263 (1984).
9. Gaspari, A. G. W. Income, Public Works, and Mortality in Early Twentieth-Century American Cities. The Journal of Economic History 45, 355-361 (1985).
10. Office of Water. The History of Drinking Water Treatment. (U.S. EPA, Washington D.C., 2000).
11. Schoenherr, S. (University of San Diego, San Diego, 2003). Preservation 1860-1900.
12. Environmental Protection Agency. The Challenge of the Environment: A Primer on EPA's Statutory Authority. 2004 (1972).
13. Smith, D. S. K. a. R. A. 20 Years of the Clean Water Act. Environment 35, 16-41 (1993).
14. Environmental Protection Agency. Chapter 4: Case Study Assessments of Water. Quality. (2000). <http://www.epa.gov/ow-owm.html/wqualiry/chap04.pdf>
15. Environmental Protection Agency. Clean Water Act History. Clean Water Act 2004 (2003). <http://www.epa.gov/region05/water/cwa.htm>
16. Gianessi, H. P. The Distribution of the Costs of Federal Water Pollution Control Policy. Land Economics 56, 85-102 (1980).
17. Environmental Protection Agency. Understanding the Safe Drinking Water Act, 1-3 (1999). <http://www.epa.gov/safewater/sdwa/pdfs/25ann/fs_sdwa_understand_25.pdf>
18. United Nations and Economic Commission for Europe. (1999). UNECE Protocol on Water and Health to the 1992 Convention on the Protection and Use of Transboundary Watercourses and International Lakes. (Third Minesterial Conference on Environment and Health, 1999). <http://www.internationalwaterlaw.org/RegionalDocs/UN_ECE_protocol.htm>
19. UN General Assembly. Convention on the Law of the Non-navigational Uses of International Watercourses. (May 1997). <http://www.thewaterpage.com/UN_Convention_97.html>
20. Susan Hutson, Nancy Barber, Joan Kenny, Kristin Linsey, Deborah Lumia, and Molly Maupin. Estimated Use of Water in the United States in 2000. (The U.S. Geological Survey, 2004).
21. Feigenbaum, Susan and Ronald Teeples. Public Versus Private Water Delivery: A Hedonic Cost Approach. The Review of Economics and Statistics 65, 672-678 (1983).
22. Environmental Protection Agency. Managing Nonpoint Source Pollution from Agriculture. Nonpoint Pointers Series 2004 (2004). <http://www.epa.gov/owow/nps/facts/point6.htm>
23. Stoner, N. (Natural Resources Defense Council, New York, 2002).
24. US Geological Survey. Estimated Use of Water in the United States: County-Level Data for 2000. (2004).
25. Gulf of Maine Aquarium. Maine's Water Roots. (1998). <http://www.gma.org/streams/roots.html>
26. Robbins, R. Bangor History. (Bangor, 2004). <http://www.bangorinfo.com/history.html>
27. SHG Resources. General History of the State in Maine State History (2003). <http://www.shgresources.com/me/history>
28. Brunelle, J. Maine Firsts Throughout History in Maine Almanac (1980). <http://www.state.me.us/legis/general/history/hist2.htm>
29. Bureau of Land and Water Quality. Kennebec River in Biomonitoring Retrospective (Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Augusta, 1999).
30. Senator George J. Mitchell Center for Environmental and Watershed Research. (Orono, ME, 2004). <http://pearl.spatial.maine.edu/introduction.htm>
31. Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Overview of Maine Department of Environmental Protection. (Augusta, 2004). <http://www.maine.gov/dep/overview.htm>
32. Bureau of Land and Water Quality. Groundwater Assessment. (Maine Department of Environmental Protection, Augusta, 2002). <http://www.maine.gov/dep/blwq/gw.htm>
33. Maine Department of Environmental Protection. History of Sand and Salt Pile Program. (Augusta, 2004). <http://www.maine.gov/dep/blwq/docstand/sandsalt/history.htm>
34. Maine Rivers. Legislation. (Augusta, 2003). <http://www.mainerivers.org/legislation.htm>
35. Nonpoint Source Pollution program in Title 38 Chapter 3 Article 1F Chapter 345 (1991).
36. Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Site Location of Development. (Augusta, 2004). <http://www.maine.gov/dep/blwq/docstand/sitelawpage.htm>
37. Storm Water Management in Title 38 Chapter 420 Article D (2001).
38. Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Draft 2004 Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report: 305(b) Report and 303(d) List. (DEP, Augusta, 2004).
39. Environmental Protection Agency. 2000 National Water Quality Inventory: Appendix A and B. (2000).
40. Environmental Protection Agency. National Water Quality Inventory: 1996 Report to Congress., Appendix A and B. (1996).
41. Environmental Protection Agency. National Water Quality Inventory: 1998 Report to Congress (305(b) Report). Appendix A and B (1998).
42. US Department of Agriculture. in 1997 Census of Agriculture Volume 1: Part 19, Chapter 1 (Washington D.C., 1997). <http://www.nass.usda.gov/census/census97/volume1/me_19.loc97.htm>
43. Robinson, et. al. Water Quality in the New England Coastal Basins: Maine, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, and Rhode Island, 1999-2001. (U.S. Geological Survey, Reston, VA, 2004).
44. Stoops, Nicole and Frank Hobbs. Demographic Trends in the 20th Century in Census 2000 Special Reports 158-159 (US Census Bureau, 2002).
45. Natural Resources Council of Maine. Mainers Mobilize to Stop Mercury from Power Plants in Maine Environment 1-2 (Augusta, 2004).
46. Montgomery, Mark and Michael Needelman. The Welfare Effects of Toxic Contamination in Freshwater Fish. Land Economics 73, 211-223 (1997).
47. Mercury-Added Products and Services in Title 38 Chapter 16-B (1999).
48. Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Mercury Legislation and Rules. (Augusta, 2004). <http://www.maine.gov/dep/mercury/legreg.htm>
49. Environmental Protection Agency. Toxic Release Inventory Program,. 2004 (2004).
50. Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Mercury in Maine: A Status Report 1-67 (Augusta, 2002).
51. The White House. Executive Summary: The Clear Skies Initiative. (Washington D.C., 2002). <http://www.whitehouse.gov/news/releases/2002/02/clearskies.html>
52. National Atmospheric Deposition Program. (Illinois State Water Survey, Champaign, 2004). <http://nadp.sws.uiuc.edu/nadpdata/mdnsites.asp>
53. Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Lakes Assessment 13-18 (Augusta, 1996).
54. Storm Water Management in Title 38, 420-D 1-4 (1997).
55. Edgecomb, M. Groups file Suit over Mercury Law; Resources Council Criticizes EPA in Bangor Daily News (Bangor, 2004).
56. Mercury Alert goes Door to Door in Maine in Bangor Daily News C5 (Bangor, 2004).
College | Colby
Search | Colby