Freshwater ecosystems are a fragile but vital part of our natural world, providing food and drinking water to humans and myriad other species. They are also home to over 40% of the world’s fish species and many other creatures great and small, from hippopotami and crocodiles to mayflies and plankton. These ecosystems are severely threatened by destructive human activities, including dam building, draining of wetlands for development purposes, and agricultural and urban runoff. The goal of our water-related work is to maintain the biological, chemical, and functional attributes of water by providing legal support to activist groups and influencing public policy.
Legal background: The most important piece of legislation impacting our work in this area is the federal Clean Water Act. The earliest version of the bill was passed in 1942, but its modern form dates to 1972 (with amendments in 1977 and 1987). It aims to preserve the integrity of US waters and wetlands and to improve wastewater treatment procedures.
An old legal doctrine for water protection that is seeing new life is the public trust doctrine, and CLC is helping define its application to Indiana waters in litigation over deeds to the Lake Michigan shore.