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Surface Water Quality

Surface Water Quality: Have the Laws Been Successful?

Faith Douglass
Drew M. Palavage
Paul M. Stewart
Copyright Date: 1992
Pages: 220
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  • Book Info
    Surface Water Quality
    Book Description:

    Addressing ecologists, legislators, lawyers, and industrialists alike, Ruth Patrick asks what has been accomplished with the millions of dollars spent on upgrading our surface waters. Has the water improved in spite of the fact that the crayfish, snails, and algae are not those that one would expect to find in natural rivers and estuaries? To evaluate the success of environmental laws over the past two decades, the author examines the aquatic life of river systems in the Delaware Valley, Texas, and Georgia--the only areas in the United States where she found enough biological data to determine trends over time. Although tracing the impact of environmental laws is difficult, Patrick found that for these three water systems the results were generally positive. However, if society as a whole wants effective environmental legislation, organizations must take on a more systematic and orderly approach to data gathering. Patrick argues that in monitoring the waters, one must study protozoa, algae, and worms as well as fish, oysters, and shrimp; one must track amounts of metal as well as low concentrations of oxygen. In proposing options for the future, the author predicts that the cost of such monitoring will be higher than present expenditures, but the cost of lax control will be even greater.

    Originally published in 1992.

    ThePrinceton Legacy Libraryuses the latest print-on-demand technology to again make available previously out-of-print books from the distinguished backlist of Princeton University Press. These paperback editions preserve the original texts of these important books while presenting them in durable paperback editions. The goal of the Princeton Legacy Library is to vastly increase access to the rich scholarly heritage found in the thousands of books published by Princeton University Press since its founding in 1905.

    eISBN: 978-1-4008-6277-1
    Subjects: Biological Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. vii-viii)
  4. List of Tables
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. List of Abbreviations and Acronyms
    (pp. xi-xii)
  6. Preface
    (pp. xiii-xviii)
    Ruth Patrick
  7. 1 What is Happening To Our Surface Waters?
    (pp. 1-4)

    Many laws, both Federal and State, have been enacted to improve the quality of our nation’s surface waters. Since 1972, when the Clean Water Act was passed, a great deal of public and private money has been spent to achieve these ends. With what result? Has the quality of our waters improved, and if it has, does the improvement correlate with the enforcement of the laws, or is it haphazard?

    Most laws have been directed toward controlling municipal and industrial wastes, and control of agricultural pollution has been voluntary except where direct discharge of effluents was involved. Cross-compliance provisions and...

  8. 2 Impacts of Human Society on the Riverine System—Past and Present
    (pp. 5-19)

    Before the arrival of European settlers, the three watersheds that are examined in this book were occupied by Native Americans. These people did not build permanent habitations and the pollution that they generated was relatively small in volume. With the arrival of Europeans and the establishment of stable habitations, the pollution impact became greater.

    The Delaware was discovered by Henry Hudson in 1609 and he described it as “one of the finest, best and pleasantest rivers in the world” (Wildes 1940) (Fig. 2.1). On his first sight of it, the river was pristine. Indian tribes lived along the shores, fishing...

  9. 3 The Impacts of Population Growth and Movement
    (pp. 20-27)

    Patterns of population growth and resulting nonpoint pollution have varied markedly in the three study areas. In the earlier years nonpoint source pollution was minor compared to industrial pollution. Today, nonpoint sources often are the primary source of pollution because much stricter controls have been leveled against point sources. It also is noteworthy that in the earlier years most of the nonpoint source pollution was organic waste material, arising from households, farms and so forth. Today, due to changing human lifestyles and the increasing use of commercial fertilizers and pesticides, many more toxic substances are present in this nonpoint source...

  10. 4 Changes in Societal Activities and Demands
    (pp. 28-61)

    Over time, many changes have occurred in the agricultural, industrial, and recreational uses of the Delaware and Neches Estuaries, and part of the Flint River. This chapter examines the nature of these changes, and the resulting impacts on water quality.

    Agriculture, which was dominant along the Delaware in years past, now has relatively little effect on the river except in the Lower Estuary, where there is some impact from cropland and orchards in Delaware and southern New Jersey, and in the freshwater portions of the river in New York State, where the poultry industry remains active.

    The Flint River area...

  11. 5 Federal and State Laws, Regulations and Management
    (pp. 62-95)

    It is impossible, in a book of this size, to fully describe or even to outline the network of laws and regulations, commissions and committees, that govern our nation’s efforts to preserve and improve the quality of its surface waters. This chapter endeavors to outline some of the most important Federal and State laws, and to describe some practices that are of special importance to the Delaware and Neches Estuaries, and to the Flint River of Georgia.

    Contrary to what most people believe, there were several attempts prior to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972 (commonly known as...

  12. 6 Effects on Pollution of Laws and Regulations Versus Voluntary Efforts
    (pp. 96-114)

    The effect of laws and regulations, as opposed to strictly voluntary pollution control programs, is well illustrated by the water quality histories of the Delaware Estuary, the Neches Estuary and the Flint River.

    In the Delaware River Basin, all wastes must receive a minimum of secondary treatment before being discharged to streams. However, this level of treatment is not sufficient to meet applicable water quality standards. Because the Estuary is defined as “water-quality limited,” waste treatment by dischargers must be better than secondary.

    In the Estuary area the Delaware River Basin Commission (DRBC) allocates the amount of allowable oxygen demanding...

  13. 7 How Have Our Surface Waters Changed?
    (pp. 115-151)

    As a result of laws and regulations governing organic waste loads, industry and municipalities have reduced the CBOD entering surface waters. At the same time, human populations have increased and have tended to concentrate in newly suburbanized areas. This has lessened the CBOD loading in some waters, and increased it in others. Suspended solids have increased because natural areas have been eroded by the building of roads, houses, and buildings. The shift of industries has produced new waste loads, while diminishing others. And recalcitrant organic molecules and metals have concentrated in the sediments of riverbeds, and continue to cause problems...

  14. 8 Options For the Future
    (pp. 152-157)

    Today, the human activities that affect the condition of our surface waters are very different than they were at the beginning of the study period.

    In the Delaware watershed there has been a large shift in population away from the cities towards the suburbs, the Pocono region to the north, and the Lower Estuary and Bav regions. Suburbanization has meant the breaking up of the natural watershed and the creation of roads and other facilities for transportation. The shift in population also has brought about an increase in service industries and utilities in the Bav area, which were very few...

  15. Bibliography
    (pp. 158-186)
  16. Subject Index
    (pp. 187-198)