Forty years ago EPA was created in answer to mounting public concern about the air, water, and waste contamination that was visibly impairing the public's health and well-being. The burning Cuyahoga River remains an icon of the unbridled contamination of the 1960s and a catalyst for change. The statutes, regulatory framework, and institutions that were created starting 40 years ago are still central to protection of today's water resources; as such, they reflect their origin in countless ways. This architecture was designed to address the contamination priorities prevalent at the time and it did so effectively. Today the challenges faced by EPA and its many state and local partners to uphold the quality of the nation's fresh and marine aquatic resources and ecosystems are different in character. While the main causes of degradation in the 1970s were point sources that could be targeted more directly, sources of contamination are now prevalent throughout entire watersheds and are caused in part by patterns of development, population growth, and consumer behavior. States are now equal partners with EPA in the protection of water quality; in addition to their own water quality programs, 46 states now implement federally-enacted water quality permit protection programs directly, with EPA assistance, technical support, policy and guidance.