EPA Debuts Quick-Reference Website for Water Pollution Data

Forty years ago, when the Clean Water Act was enacted on Oct. 18, 1972, the best way to get pollution data about a local stream or river was to call a scientist, do research at the library or submit an open records request.

Fortunately those steps aren’t always needed anymore, thanks to a big push by all levels of government to improve transparency.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is marking Thursday’s 40th anniversary of the Clean Water Act by announcing the availability of a new webpage called How’s My Waterway? What distinguishes this repository of water quality data is that it conveniently detects the website visitor’s current location and returns a list of waterways within five miles. Users also may opt to search by city or ZIP code.

For each waterway — such as a river, creek or reservoir — the EPA database lists the reported condition and the types of pollution that impacts it. (The EPA recognizes 34 different categories of water pollution.) The website also shows the plans and actions for cleaning up the waterway. Technical reports are just a click away, and the website also features related links to other sources of information.

The website is a much simplified version of ATTAINS, the EPA’s national information system on water quality assessments designed for scientific and technical users.

The data available in How’s My Waterway is made possible by the Clean Water Act of 1972, which requires states to biennially report updated water pollution data to the EPA. In fact, the act “established the basic structure for regulating pollutants discharged into the waters of the United States,” according to a brief history of the legislation posted on the EPA’s website.  Furthermore, it gave the EPA the authority to implement pollution control programs.

With the release of How’s My Waterway, the EPA has mobility in mind. The website is optimized for use on mobile devices. No matter what type of device is being used — desktop, smartphone or tablet — the viewing area automatically resizes to fit the screen.

Photo:The Madrona Marsh Preserve in Torrance. Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons.