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Coastal Water Quality

When most people think of water pollution, they think of factories or other locations that might release harmful chemicals from a smokestack or pipe. These are known as "point sources" of pollution. Many laws regulate point sources of pollution, and these laws have resulted in big improvements in air and water quality since they were put into place in the 1970s.

After these improvements, the federal government began to address other serious sources of pollution. As part of these efforts, the Coastal Zone Management Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990 (CZARA) required coastal states to address "non-point source" (NPS) pollution.

As the name suggests, there may not be a single specific point of origin for nonpoint source pollution. This makes finding a solution to the problem quite difficult. Any activity that deposits pollutants onto the ground or into the air where they are can be carried by rain to rivers and streams can contribute to NPS pollution.

Many small things like a well-fertilized lawns, or cars that drip oil, add up over time to have a big impact on water quality. NPS pollution can come from everyday land uses such as construction sites, lawns and gardens, outdoor commercial and industrial activity, commercial timber lands, farms, roads, streets, and highways. The negative effects of NPS pollution include changes in water quality such as higher water temperature, altered pH, or lower dissolved oxygen. Activities such as vegetation removal, stream alteration, or increasing impervious areas in a watershed tend to make the problems worse over time.


Amanda Punton
Natural Resources Specialist
Phone: 971-673-0961

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