In 1948 the Ohio River Valley Water Sanitation Commission (ORSANCO) was established to abate pollution of a major river basin in the United States. The commission consists of representatives of eight states in the Ohio River Valley and the United States Government. The necessity of such an interstate commission, representing multiple jurisdictions, reflects the nature of the Ohio River which is approximately 1,580 km in length, transverses six states, and is extensively used for public and industrial water supply, wastewater disposal, transportation, power generation and recreation. ORSANCO's programmes include coordination and communication, setting and enforcing wastewater discharge standards, operating key water quality monitoring programmes for the Ohio River and major tributaries, data assessments and studies to evaluate problems and programmes for remediation, and monitoring when spills occur. The Commission's approach to achieving improved water quality, while at the same time balancing the needs of the users of the river, is accomplished by successfully involving and integrating the various interests in river management (governmental agencies, industry, public utilities, other river users and the general public) into its programme planning and implementation. Thus an intergovernmental agency which encourages co-operation with non-governmental entities can be an effective approach to sustainable management of a major river.