The primary policy instrument for promoting and regulating surface water quality in the United States is the Clean Water Act. Under a system of cooperative federalism, the implementation of this policy involves state and federal agencies. This article will review current controversies over the Clean Water Act, including the definition of the “waters of the USA,” and the use of narrative ambient water quality standards. The case studies of North Dakota and Minnesota are enlightening because they have distinct economies with different water management priorities. Minnesota demonstrates that local demands for water quality can lead to extra effort and innovation. North Dakota continues to be more concerned with water quantity issues and flood mitigation. Despite states’ efforts to manage water quality to suit their own needs, interstate water quality concerns, especially excess nutrients, remain a concern.

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