In 1992, an Alaska NGO called the Alaska Clean Water Alliance was born in the Southeast Alaska town of Haines, to address statewide issues of impacts to water quality, fish habitat protection, and human health. ACWA played a key role in stopping the pollution from the region's two pulp mills, blocked an application for a 6.5 mile long "mixing zone" for contaminants in the Wulik River by the Red Dog mine, successfully litigated against EPA to strike a federal regulation that for years had allowed states to apply unapproved Water Quality Standards (WQS) in discharge permits, and helped organizations around the country with a variety of issues related to Clean Water Act implementation.
In 1998, to better address the national emphasis of our work, ACWA evolved into the Campaign to Safeguard America’s Waters and became part of the Earth Island Institute, to provide a platform for direct advocacy on water quality issues and support for programs and organizations around the country dedicated to making all waters of the U.S. “fishable and swimmable” – the fundamental goals of the Clean Water Act. For eighteen years CSAW has worked to prevent the pollution of public waters from mines, oil rigs, and pharmaceutical companies, and helped launch The Great Whale Conservancy. Over a period of ten years CSAW championed Alaska's successful effort to have the world's tightest restrictions on discharges from giant cruise ships. CSAW continued to work throughout the nation to strengthen discharge permits and state and federal regulations, from mixing zones to the Antidegradation Policy, and when needed, went to court to defend the public's right to clean water.
In 2016, it was time to narrow the broader vision of CSAW once again and refocus the project's efforts on Alaska-specific issues. The decision was made to change the project's name once again to reflect this return to the old/new priority; so it seemed fitting to once again be known by the acronym ACWA, this time as Alaska Clean Water Advocacy.
Our overall mission is still to defend and implement the goals and directives of the Clean Water Act, and we will continue to work with old and new friends inside and outside Alaska as our issues and concerns remain the same. But Alaska has been our home-base for decades and the waters, fish, and all of the people and creatures that depend on them need all the help they can get right now. Please join ACWA in this effort, or stay with us as the case may be. We need all hands on deck.