For the more information about water resources in the National Park Service, please visit http://www.nature.nps.gov/water/.


Laws

The National Park Service is required to manage all park units in accordance with the Organic Act and other applicable laws so as not to be "in derogation of the values and purposes for which these various areas have been established..." (NPS General Authorities Act 1970). Under the General Authorities Act, all water resources of the park are protected by the federal government. Only an act of Congress can change this fundamental responsibility of the National Park Service.

Further laws, including the 1978 Redwoods National Park Expansion Act and the 1998 National Parks Omnibus Management Act, improve the ability of the National Park Service to provide state-of-the-art management, protection, and interpretation of and research on the resources of the national park system.

The Clean Water Act was first promulgated in 1972 and amended several times since. This law is designed to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological integrity of the nation's waters, including the waters of the national park system.

The Clean Air Act of 1970 (as amended) regulates airborne emissions of a variety of pollutants from area, stationary, and mobile sources. The 1990 amendments to this act were intended primarily to fill the gaps in the earlier regulations, such as acid rain, ground level ozone, stratospheric ozone depletion, and air toxins.

The Coastal Zone Management Act (1972) and its amendments (1990) enables coastal states to develop coastal management programs to improve protection of sensitive shoreline resources, identify coastal areas appropriate for development, designate areas hazardous to development, and improve public access to the coastline. The act requires that federal agencies conducting activities or undertaking development directly affecting the coastal zone will ensure that the activities or developments are consistent with approved state management programs to the extent practicable.

The Safe Drinking Water Act directs the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to publish and enforce regulations on maximum allowable contaminant levels in drinking water. The 1996 amendments to the Safe Drinking Water Act initiated a new era in cost-effective protection of drinking water quality, state flexibility, and citizen involvement.

Congress passed the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) in 1969. Environmental compliance in the National Park Service encompasses the mandates of NEPA and all other federal environmental laws that require evaluation, documentation and disclosure, and public involvement, including the Endangered Species Act, Clean Water Act, Executive Orders on Floodplains and Wetlands, and others. All natural resource management and scientific activities are subject to environmental analysis under NEPA through the development of environmental assessments and environmental impact statements.

Section 10 of the Rivers and Harbors Act (1899), as amended, was the first general legislation giving the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers jurisdiction and authority over the protection of navigable waters.

The Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, enacted in 1976, established a regulatory structure for handling, storage, treatment, and disposal of solid and hazardous wastes.

The Endangered Species Act of 1973 requires the NPS to identify and promote the conservation of all federally listed endangered, threatened, or candidate species within park or preserve boundaries.

The objective of Executive Order 11988 Floodplain Management is to limit and avoid development in floodplains.

Executive Order 11990 Protection of Wetlands requires federal agencies to avoid activities that have the potential to degrade wetlands.

The Wilderness Act of 1964 recognized certain federal land as "retaining its primeval character" and "untrammeled by man." More than half of all national park system lands are designated wilderness and must be managed for wilderness character.

The Wild and Scenic Rivers Act of 1968 recognized that certain rivers possess outstandingly remarkable values and need to be preserved in free-flowing condition.

Last Updated: July 18, 2012