Protect and restore coastal
and marine waters to safeguard human health, sustain the rich
diversity of wildlife, promote a thriving economy, and preserve
a recreational and aesthetic resource for safe enjoyment by current
and future generations.
Toxic and nutrient pollutants,
sedimentation, and disease-causing organisms are degrading ocean
and coastal water quality and threatening public health, the
environment, and the economic well-being of communities that
depend on fishing, tourism, and marine commerce. While point
sources of pollution, such as discharge pipes, continue to be
a problem, the leading cause of water pollution today is nonpoint
source pollution, which includes runoff from farmland, suburban
lawns, and city streets, as well as pollution that is deposited
from the air.
Increasingly, excess nutrients in polluted runoff are contributing
to harmful algal blooms and robbing coastal and marine ecosystems
of life-sustaining oxygen, creating dead zones that cover huge
areas, such as the 7,700-square-mile dead zone in the Gulf of
Mexico. Pollution can also alter the chemistry of the coastal
ocean, which scientists fear is happening in the Bering Sea and
As pollution continues to contaminate
our waters, more and more people are faced with the risk of illness
from exposure to toxic contaminants and disease-causing microorganisms,
either when eating the fish they catch or through direct contact
with polluted waters. In 1998, approximately 30% of all beaches
surveyed reported an advisory or closing, and 60% of coastal
waters were under fish-consumption advisories.
- Water quality improvement
efforts to protect human health and the environment have been
focused primarily on inland and coastal waters. As a result,
the impacts of pollution on the marine environment are not as
- While the federal government
has developed national guidance on fish-consumption advisories
and recreational water quality monitoring, many tribes and states
do little or no monitoring, and variation in their methods and
- Contaminated sediments along
our nation's coasts are degrading water quality.
- Many former ocean disposal
sites are unmonitored, and their impacts on marine and coastal
waters and ecosystems are largely unknown.
- Implement the Administration's
Clean Water Action Plan to effectively address polluted runoff
and other sources of pollution, as well as improve coordination
among federal agencies.
- Increase research on the effects
of water quality and ocean discharges on the marine environment,
including on marine wildlife, and use this information to improve
protection for ocean and coastal resources where necessary.
- Assist tribes, states, and
territories in adopting fully protective fish-consumption and
beach water quality standards, conducting adequate fish tissue
and beach water quality monitoring, and developing effective
public notification and education programs. Consider legislation
that promotes these goals.
- Improve detection of pathogens
in fish, wildlife, and recreational waters through research on
new technologies, and reduce the occurrence of contaminants in
coastal waters through improved controls on sewer overflows,
stormwater runoff, and other sources of pollution.
- Effectively manage and remediate
both inland and coastal contaminated sediment sites to reduce
their impact on coastal water quality.
- Work with tribes and states
to identify and address the health of coastal waters that are
not meeting clean water goals.
- Assess the impacts of military,
industrial, and other coastal and ocean disposal sites, and identify
and implement appropriate monitoring, protection, and remedial
measures where necessary.
- Work with international partners
to reduce the flow of pollutants from land into oceans by implementing
the Global Programme of Action for the Protection of the Marine
Environment from Land-Based Activities.
For more information
The President's and Vice President's
1998 Clean Water Action Plan uses collaborative watershed strategies
to protect and restore water quality. Action items under the
plan include developing multi-agency Coastal Research Strategy,
creating a coordinated monitoring plan for coastal waters, and
issuing a report to the public on the condition of the nation's