The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) was created in 1970; the Clean Water Act of 1972 expanded the 1948 Federal Act to regulate pollutants’ discharge into surface waters and establish water quality standards for surface waters; the Safe Drinking Water Act of 1974 was established to ensure the safety of public drinking water supplies.
Before the 1960s, the focus of water research and education in America was mostly on water source development and delivery. In 1970s, the focus shifted to non-point source pollution, i.e., stormwater runoff from agriculture and urban areas. Water problems identified in the 20th century still continue to impact the environment to a great extent, and some problems such as contaminated urban stormwater runoff have been intensified due to significant urban growth.
In the aftermath of 9-11 terrorist attack in 2001, the beginning of the first decade of the 21st century, water security issues began to dominate water research, education and management.
During the second decade of the 21st century, the impact of climate change on water resources/water infrastructure management and policy became a prominent issue and continues to this day.
At present, the beginning of third decade of the 21st century, COVID-19, the unexpected crisis, has exposed a diverse range of preexisting water infrastructure problems across the U.S., including poor drinking water quality in low income communities and the need for environmental justice. In many ways, problems emerged during the first two decades of 21st century are added to the problems we inherited from the 20th century.