Clean Water

Protecting Our Water

Pennsylvania’s surface and ground waters are a vital resource providing drinking water to millions, creating outstanding recreational opportunities, and allowing Pennsylvania’s industries to thrive. The Commonwealth features about 86,000 miles of rivers and streams, of which 3,300 miles are designated exceptional value and 23,000 miles are high quality. We have 161,455 acres of lakes and over 400,000 wetlands.

Our waters continue to be polluted by point source discharges such as industrial facilities and animal feeding operations, as well as nonpoint source discharges such as stormwater runoff and sediment from erosion. Stressors on water quality around the state include nutrient pollution, sedimentation, stormwater runoff, and industrial discharges. 

Despite that, the 1972 Clean Water Act made it our national goal that every navigable surface water be fishable and swimmable within ten years, many of the over 86,000 miles of rivers, streams and lakes in Pennsylvania remain unfit for fishing and swimming. Pollution continues to prevent our waterways from sustaining the uses for which they are protected.


PennFuture works to reduce or eliminate major sources of water pollution:

  • We lead strong coalitions in the Susquehanna and Delaware River watersheds, and closely monitor energy and industrial development, and pollution from agricultural operations there, and in the Ohio River watershed; 
  • We advocate for improvements to water quality protection programs, including more aggressive oversight of gas development;
  • We work to identify special protection waters that are being harmed or threatened by water pollution discharges and bring legal action to clean them up;
  • We promote green infrastructure as a solution to management of stormwater as an economically efficient means of removing pollutants from surface waters; 
  • We draft model ordinances such as the model stormwater fee ordinance to assist municipalities in raising needed funds to apply stormwater management projects and help municipalities come together to jointly manage stormwater; 
  • We hold DEP accountable for obligations to help clean up local streams and rivers flowing into Chesapeake Bay.

Supporting Information

From Lake Erie to the Delaware
Learn about the conditions of Pennsylvania’s extraordinary waters in the Pennsylvania Integrated Water Quality Monitoring and Assessment Report 
View Report >

How is Pennsylvania doing on the cleanup of the Chesapeake Bay?
The Chesapeake Bay foundation’s report Pennsylvania Milestones reviews agriculture, forest buffers, nutrient management, urban infiltration, and more.
View Report >

Stream Re-designation Handbook
A step-by-step guide for petitioning to upgrade your stream to High Quality or Exceptional Value Special Protection in Pennsylvania.
View Handbook >

Pennsylvania’s Waters Are Under Attack

Please help PennFuture’s team take the policy and legal action to protect our abundant waters.

Support Our Water