Vanderbilt Law Review


Kyle W. Robisch

First Page



Chances are that today you have already unwittingly advanced the slow but steady demise of America's freshwater supply. The sausage and egg biscuit you ate for breakfast, the half-empty bottle of Drano you dumped into your backyard, and the quick trip to the grocery store-these seemingly innocent actions each significantly degrade American watersheds.' In response to this systemic and persistent assault on water quality, Congress enacted the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972. More commonly known as the Clean Water Act ("CWA"), this legislation attempted to take an aggressive and comprehensive approach to improving water quality. To achieve its sweeping goal of "restoring [ing] and maintain[ing] the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the Nation's waters," the CWA established a bifurcated regulatory scheme. The first prong of the this scheme prohibits "the discharge of any pollutant" into "navigable waters from any point source." Like the drain-cleaning chemical you dumped into your backyard, a point source is "any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, including but not limited to any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation, or vessel or other floating craft, from which pollutants are or may be discharged." This program is complicated but effective.