Clean Water Act



The Federal Water Pollution Control Act, 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251-1387, was adopted in 1948 and, after amendment in 1972 and 1977, became commonly known as the Clean Water Act (“CWA”). This act provides a comprehensive system for the regulation of pollutants in the waters of the United States with the objective of restoring and maintaining the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation’s waters. The CWA operates by authorizing water quality standards for surface waters, requiring permits for point source discharges of pollutants into navigable waters, assisting with funding for construction of municipal sewage treatment plants, and planning for control of nonpoint source pollution. The Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) is the primary agency tasked with implementing and enforcing the CWA, although it also works in conjunction with state environmental agencies and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Read the full overview


Note: Recently added resources are posted at the top of the applicable sections.

Major Statutes

Federal Water Pollution Control Act (a/k/a Clean Water Act), 33 U.S.C. §§ 1251-1388


CAFO Regulations

Environmental Protection Agency Clean Water Act Regulations:

40 C.F.R. pts. 104-149
40 C.F.R. pts. 136-140
40 C.F.R. pts. 220-238
40 C.F.R. pts. 400-471

U.S. Army Corps of Engineers Clean Water Act Regulations, 33 C.F.R. pts. 320; 323-338

Rural Clean Water Program Regulations, 7 C.F.R. §§ 634.1-634.50

Federal Register Rules Open for Comment

Case Law

Case Law Index for Clean Water Act

Administrative Law Decisions

EPA Office of Administrative Law Judges

Environmental Appeals Board

Center published USDA Judicial Officer’s Decisions

Center Research Publications

Water Quality Credit Trading: A Primer of Background Material (Jackson, 2010)

The Clean Water Act: Current Status and Potential Changes (R. Rumley, 2010)

The Clean Water Authority Restoration Act: A Primer of Background Material (Goeringer & Rumley, 2009)

Environmental Law: Federal Laws That Affect Agriculture – PowerPoint Presentation (Springsteen, 2009)

Clarifying NPDES Requirements for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (Centner, 2007)

Governmental Oversight of Animal Feeding Operations (Centner, 2003)

How the Concept of Navigability May Determine the Rights of Landowners Along Streams (Looney, 2002)

Mandatory Legal Approaches to Agricultural Nutrient Management (Hall & Brown, 2019)

State Legal Approaches to Reducing Water Quality Impacts from the Use of Agricultural Nutrients on Farmland (Hall & Essman, 2019)

Issue Brief: Conduit Theory under the Clean Water Act (Barker & R. Rumley)

Congressional Research Service Reports

Reports– published and made available by CRS beginning in 2017

Subjects- published by CRS and made available by NALC until 2018:

Animal Agriculture
Environmental Issues

Agricultural Law Bibliography

Introduction   |   Keyword Search   |   Browse Categories

Legal publications on Clean Water Act:

Environmental Issues
Water Rights: Agriculturally Related

Reference Resources

Economic Research Service (ERS)

Publications: Wetlands and Agriculture: Private Interests and Public Benefits (Heimlich et al., 1998)

Topic: Natural Resources & Environment

Publications: Economics of Water Quality Protection from Nonpoint Sources: Theory and Practice (Ribaudo et al., 1999)

Publications: Confined Animal Production and Manure Nutrients (Gollehon et al., 2001)

Publications: Benefits of Protecting Rural Water Quality: An Empirical Analysis (Crutchfield et al., 1995)

Agricultural Resources and Environmental Indicators

Current Water Quality Conditions and Government Programs to Protect Water Quality (ERS)

Water Quality Impacts of Agriculture (ERS)

Environmental Protection Agency (EPA)

Water Topics
Clean Water Act (National Agriculture Compliance Assistance Center)
WATERS (Watershed Assessment, Tracking and Environmental Results System)
Water Quality Standards Handbook
Wetlands Protection and Restoration
Clean Water Act Section 303(d): Impaired Waters and Total Maximum Daily Loads
Definition of “Waters of the United States” under the Clean Water Act
Surface and Groundwater in Agriculture
National Agriculture Compliance Assistance Center
EPA’s National Strategy for Agriculture 
Summary of the Clean Water Act
National Guidance Water Quality Standards for Wetlands
Nonpoint Source Pollution
National Lakes Assessment
Clean Water Act Module
Polluted Runoff (Nonpoint Source Pollution)

Clean Water Act (CWA) Action Plan
Clean Water Act (CWA) Compliance Monitoring
Clean Water Act Section 404 and Agriculture
Interpretive Statement on Releases of Pollutants from Point Sources to Groundwater
How Wetlands are Defined and Identified under CWA Section 404



CAFO Clean Water Act Requirements: What Are the Federal Record-Keeping and Reporting Requirements? 
CAFO Clean Water Act Requirements: What Are the Federal Requirements for Beef Cattle or Veal Calf?
CAFO Clean Water Act Requirements: What Are the Federal Requirements for Chicken and Turkey?
CAFO Clean Water Act Requirements: What Are the Federal Requirements for Dairy Cattle or Heifer CAFOs?
CAFO Clean Water Act Requirements: What Are the Federal Requirements for Duck CAFOs?
CAFO Clean Water Act Requirements: What Are the Federal Requirements for Horse and Sheep CAFOs?

Threats to Wetlands
Types of Wetlands
Producer’s Compliance Guide to CAFOS
Implementation Guidance on CAFO Regulations – CAFOs That Discharge or Are Proposing to Discharge

Forest Service

In Brief: Climate Change and Water Perspectives from the Forest Service
Water and the Forest Service
Water Quality Protection Measures
Water Facts
Groundwater-Dependent Ecosystems
Watershed Condition Framework: 2011-2017
National Best Management Practices for Water Quality Management on National Forest System Lands

National Agricultural Library (NAL)

Water and Agriculture Information Center
Agricultural Environmental Management
Natural Resources and Environment
Soil Management
Water Management

Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS)

Water Quality and Quantity
National Water and Climate Center
National Water Management Center
National Water Quality Initiative
Animal Feeding Operations
Identifying Wetland Boundaries

U.S. Geological Survey

Water Resources of the United States
National Water-Quality Assessment Program
Nutrients and Eutrophication
Agricultural Contaminants
Water Data for the Nation
Pesticides in the Nation’s Streams and Ground Water (1992-2001)
Animal Feeding Operations: Effects on Hydrologic Resources and the Environment
Toxic Substances Hydrology Program: Animal Feeding Operations
Trends in Pesticide Concentration in Urban Streams in the United States, 1992-2008

Congressional Resources

Reports on Clean Water Act (Government Accountability Office)

CAFOs: EPA Needs More Information and a Clearly Defined Strategy to Protect Air and Water Quality from Pollutants of Concern (GAO-08-944)

Other Federal Resources

Animal Feeding Operations (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention)
National Water Quality Program (NIFA and the Land Grant System)
Best Management Practices for the Clean Water Act (Bureau of Land Management)
Water Resource Program Strategy (Bureau of Land Management)
CWA Guidance (U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)


Surface and Groundwater Regulation (Hill & Aldredge, 2016)

One if by Land, Two if by Sea, Three if by Air: The Changing Face of Environmental Regulation of Production Agriculture (Ferrell & Lashmet, 2016)

The Creature from the Potomac Basin: Environmental Law under the Trump Administration (Ferrell, Goeringer & Lashmet, 2017)

Additional Resources

Clean Water Act Posts (Ag & Food Law Blog)

A Farmer’s Guide To Agriculture and Water Quality Issues (NC State U.)

Clean Water Act Jurisdictional Handbook (Environmental Law Institute, 2007)

Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (Nat’l Conf. of State Legislatures)

Muddy Waters: Why Polluted Groundwater Infiltrating Navigable Waters Should Not Be Excluded From National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permitting (NI U.)