The Clean Water Act and its Implications for California Coastal Waters
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Occupying 70% of the earth?s surface, water is arguably the most valuable natural resource in existence. Throughout the twentieth century, however, industrial growth and a sharp increase in consumption by developed nations, especially the United States, have caused the steady destruction of marine habitats. Originally passed in 1972, the Clean Water Act sought to slow, and eventually reverse, this damage imposed on the nation?s waters. However, little research has been conducted since to analyze the actual effects of the Act on alleviating water pollutant levels for either coastal or inland waters. In practice, the Clean Water Act is mostly enforced by local and state governments. In California, two pieces of legislation ? CZARA and State Bill AB411 - mandate that the Clean Water Act?s requirement for ocean monitoring be carried out through weekly water quality testing of three fecal indicator bacteria: enterococcus, fecal coliforms, and total coliforms - at all major coastal beaches. To analyze the impact of these policies on water quality, data on historical water quality tests, county-wide annual population estimates, and latitude and longitude of all testing sites was collected. This research focuses on the accuracy and efficiency of current testing procedures and recommends a more economically viable approach to improving California coastal water quality.