Fifty years ago, there was so much raw sewage in San Francisco Bay that it literally stank

The Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act, California’s state clean water law, passed in 1969 and became the model for the 1972 federal Clean Water Act. Nearly half a century after passage of the landmark federal law, it is time for both the state and the nation to assess progress and chart a new course. Once again, California is leading the way with Assembly Bill 377, a new bill introduced by Assemblyman Robert Rivas (D-Hollister).

Although new legislation is needed, the existing federal and California clean water acts have produced successes that should be celebrated.

Half a century ago, Ohio’s Cuyahoga River was so polluted that it literally caught fire at least 10 times. Today, the federal program that limits industrial pollution reduces toxic discharges by 700 billion pounds annually. One tangible result: The Cuyahoga River is now a destination for kayakers.

As a result of untreated waste, Lake Erie was famously dying in the 1960s, as were many of California’s bays, lakes and rivers. By 2020, both federal and state governments had invested nearly $200 billion in municipal wastewater treatment and other clean water strategies — dramatically reducing pollution from sewage.