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Urban Stormwater Management in the United States 6 Innovative Stormwater Management and Regulatory Permitting There are numerous innovative regulatory strategies that could be used to improve EPA’s stormwater program. This chapter first outlines a substantial departure from the status quo, namely, basing all stormwater and other wastewater discharge permits on watershed boundaries instead of political boundaries. Watershed-based permitting is not a new concept, but it has been attempted in only a few communities. Development of the new permitting paradigm is followed by more modest and easily implemented recommendations for improving the stormwater program, from a new plan for monitoring industrial sites to encouraging greater use of quantitative measures of the maximum extent practicable requirement. The recommendations in the latter half of the chapter do not preclude adoption of watershed-based permitting at some future date, and indeed they lay the groundwork in the near term for an eventual shift to watershed-based permitting. WATERSHED PERMITTING FRAMEWORK FOR MANAGING STORMWATER At its initial meeting in January 2007, the committee heard opinions that collectively pointed in a new direction for managing and regulating stormwater that would differ from the end-of-pipe approach traditionally applied by regulatory agencies under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits and be based instead on a watershed framework. Indeed, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has already given substantial thought to watershed permitting and issued a Watershed-Based NPDES Permitting Policy Statement (EPA, 2003a) that defined watershed-based permitting as an approach that produces NPDES permits that are issued to point sources on a geographic or watershed basis. It went on to declare that, “The utility of this tool relies heavily on a detailed, integrated, and inclusive watershed planning process. Watershed planning includes monitoring and assessment activities that generate the data necessary for clear watershed goals to be established and permits to be designed to specifically address the goals.” In the statement, EPA listed a number of important benefits of watershed permitting: More environmentally effective results; Ability to emphasize measuring the effectiveness of targeted actions on improvements in water quality;
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Urban Stormwater Management in the United States Greater opportunities for trading and other market-based approaches; Reduced cost of improving the quality of the nation’s waters; More effective implementation of watershed plans, including total maximum daily loads (TMDLs); and Other ancillary benefits beyond those that have been achieved under the Clean Water Act (e.g., integrating CWA and Safe Drinking Water Act [SDWA] programs). Subsequent to the policy statement, EPA published two guidance documents that lay out a general process for a designated state that wishes to set up any type of permit or permits under CWA auspices on a watershed basis (EPA, 2003b, 2007a). It also outlined a number of case studies illustrating various kinds of permits that contain some watershed-based elements. Box 6-1 describes in greater detail the more recent report (EPA, 2007a) and its 11 “options” for watershed-based permitting. Unfortunately, the EPA guidance is lacking in its description of what constitutes watershed-based permitting, who would be covered under such a permit, and how it would replace the current program for municipalities and industries discharging stormwater under an individual or general NPDES permit. Few examples are given, some of which are not even watershed-based, with most of the examples involving grouping municipal wastewater treatment works under a single permit with no reference to stormwater. Most of the 11 options are removed from the fundamental concept of watershed-based permitting. Finally, the guidance fails to elaborate on the policy statement goal to make water quality standards watershed-based. The committee concluded that, although the EPA documents lay some groundwork for watershed-based permitting—especially the ideas of integrated municipal permits, water quality trading, and monitoring consortia—the sum total of EPA’s analysis does not define a framework for moving toward true watershed-based permitting. The guidance attends to few of the details associated with such a program and it has made no attempt to envision how such a system could be extended to the states and the municipal and industrial stormwater permittees. This chapter attempts to overcome these shortcomings by presenting a more comprehensive description of watershed-based permitting for stormwater dischargers. The approach proposed in this chapter fits within the general framework outlined by EPA but goes much further. First, it is intended to replace the present structure, instead of being an adjunct to it, and to be uniformly applied nationwide. The proposal adopts the goal orientation of the policy statement and then extends it to root watershed management and permitting in comprehensive objectives representing the ability of waters to actually support designated beneficial uses. The proposal builds primarily around the integrated municipal permit concept in the policy statement and technical guidance. Like EPA’s outline, the committee emphasizes measuring the effectiveness of actions in bringing improvements, but goes on from there to recommend a set of monitoring activi-
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Urban Stormwater Management in the United States BOX 6-1 EPA’s Current Guidance on Watershed-Based Permitting Rather than explicitly define watershed based permitting, the EPA’s recent guidance (EPA, 2007a) groups a large number of activities as having elements of watershed-based permitting, and defines how each might be utilized by a community. They are NPDES permitting development on a watershed basis, Water quality trading, Wet weather integration, Indicator development for watershed-based stormwater management, TMDL development and implementation, Monitoring consortium, Permit synchronization, Statewide rotating basin planning, State-approved watershed management plan development, Section 319 planning, and Source water protection planning. Taking these topics in order, the first option is generally similar to that in EPA (2003a,b), but with some more detail on possible permitting forms. “Coordinated individual permits” implies that individual permits would be made similar and set with respect to one another and to a holistic watershed goal. The nature of such permits is not fully described, and there are no examples given. An “integrated municipal permit,” also presented in the earlier policy statement, would place the disparate individual NPDES permits in a municipality (e.g., wastewater plants, combined sewer overflows, municipal separate storm sewer systems [MS4s]) under one permit. However, such a permit is not necessarily watershed-based. Finally, the “multi-source permit” could go in numerous directions, none of which are described in detail. In one concept, all current individual permittees who discharge a common pollutant into a watershed would come under one new individual permit that regulates that pollutant, while keeping the existing individual permits intact for other purposes. The Neuse River Consortium is given as an example. Alternatively, a multi-source permit could cover all dischargers of a particular type now falling under one individual permit that regulates all of their pollutants (no examples are given). In yet another application, this permit could be a general permit, and it would be identical to the existing general permits, except that it would be organized along watershed boundaries. As above, it could be refined on the basis of pollutant or discharger type. The other ten options are more distant from the fundamental concept of watershed-based permitting. The water quality trading description is minimal, though it does mention a new EPA document that gives guidance to permittees for trading. Wet weather integration, the third topic, can mean any number of things, from creating a single permit to cover all discharges of pollutants during wet weather in a municipality, as described above for “coordinated individual permits,” to just having all the managers of the systems get together and strategize. Although a stated goal is to reduce the amount of water in the sewer system after a storm, this integration is not particularly well defined in the document, nor is it well differentiated from other activities that would normally occur under an MS4 permit.
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Urban Stormwater Management in the United States Indicator development for watershed-based stormwater management refers to identifying indicators that are better than one or a few pollutants at characterizing the degree of impairment wrought by stormwater. Stormwater runoff volume is one indicator being developed by Vermont, and percent impervious surface is another. As discussed in Chapter 2, some states have long used biological indicators that integrate the effects of many pollutants as well as physical stresses such as elevated flow velocities. Indicators can be used as TMDL targets or as goals in NPDES permits. Identifying and adopting indicators is, essentially, a prerequisite to implementing some of the other options listed above. Regarding the next topic on the list, the option of TMDL development is obvious, since the TMDL program is by definition watershed based. If it can be made the highest priority, and if stormwater is a contributor, then the implementation plan can be an excellent way to combat stormwater pollution on a watershed basis. Reducing the contribution of the pollutant from a stormwater source can involve water quality trading, better enforcement of existing permits, or creating new watershed-based permits. Hence, again, there is considerable overlap with the previously discussed options. Developing a monitoring consortium is an option that works when sufficient data are not available to do much else. The concept mainly refers to monitoring of ambient waters. The activity is shared among partners (e.g., all wastewater plants in a region), with the goal of collecting and analyzing enough data to improve management decisions on a watershed basis, instead of for a single plant. The following topic, permit synchronization, refers to having all permits within a watershed expire and be renewed simultaneously. This approach could be helpful for streamlining administrative, monitoring, and management tasks associated with maintaining the permits. Some states have operated in this way, whereas others have decided not to. It is one way to coordinate permits in cases where other types of watershed-based permitting would not work. Similarly, the statewide rotating basin approach, used by many states, relies on a five-year cycle. The state is divided into major watersheds, and each watershed is in a different stage of the cycle every year. It is a way to distribute the workload such that there is never a year when, for example, every watershed would require monitoring. Since it is a statewide program, how it relates to a watershed-based permitting situation is not at all clear. ties designed to support active adaptive management to achieve objectives, aswell as to assess compliance. Credit trading, indicator development, the rotating basin approach, and monitoring should be part of management and permitting programs within watersheds, and ideas are advanced to develop these and other elements. In addition to building on the work of EPA, the proposed approach tackles many of the impediments to effective watershed management identified in the National Research Council (NRC) treatise on watershed management (NRC, 1999). That report noted that watershed approaches are easiest to implement at the local level; thus, the approach developed in this chapter is a bottom-up process in which programmatic responsibility lies mainly with municipalities. Because the natural boundaries of watersheds rarely coincide with political jurisdictions, watersheds as geographic areas are less useful for political, institutional, and funding purposes, such that initiatives and organizations directed at watershed management should be flexible. The proposed approach recognizes this reality and makes numerous suggestions for pilot testing, funding, and institutional arrangements that will facilitate success. Finally, NRC (1999) notes the
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Urban Stormwater Management in the United States With regard to the next topic, there has been a great deal of watershed planning around the nation and tremendous variety in form and comprehensiveness. Plans generally contain some information on the state of the watershed, goals for the watershed, and activities to meet those goals. Development of such plans in areas that do not have them could facilitate watershed-based permitting by providing much needed information about conditions, sources of pollutants, and methods to reduce pollution. According to EPA, a watershed plan may or may not indicate the need for watershed-based permitting. The Section 319 Program refers to voluntary efforts to reduce pollution from nonpoint sources. The program in and of itself is not relevant to NPDES permits, since it deals strictly with activities that are not regulated. However, these activities could be traded with more traditional stormwater practices as part of a watershed-based effort to reduce overall pollution reaching waterbodies. Many watershed plans must consider guidance for the 319 program in order to get funding for their management activities. If the watershed in question contains a drinking water source (either surface water or groundwater), then a good source water protection plan can have a significant impact on NPDES permitting in a watershed. Information collected during the assessment phase of source water protection could be used to help inform watershed-based permitting. Also, NPDES permits could be rewritten taking into account the proximity of discharges to source water intakes. Following its coverage of the 11 options, EPA (2007a) gives a hypothetical example of picking six of the options to develop permitting for a watershed. It discusses how the options might be prioritized, but in a very qualitative manner, according to considerations such as availability of funding and personnel, stakeholder desires, environmental impacts, and sequencing of events. Chapter 1 of the report ends with a list of performance goals that might apply to the 11 options. Chapter 2 further explains the multi-source watershed-based permit, discussing, for example, who would be covered by it, who would administer it, and how credit trading fits in. The chapter has a lot of practical, although quite intuitive, information about how to write such a permit. Much of the decision making is left to the permit writer. There are discussions of effluent limitations, monitoring requirements, reporting and record keeping, special conditions, and public notice. Chapter 3 follows by presenting case studies, although fewer than appeared in 2003 and not all truly watershed based. need to “develop practical procedures for considering risk and uncertainty in real world decision-making in order to advance watershed management.” The proposed revised monitoring system presented later in this chapter is designed to provide information in the face of ongoing uncertainty, i.e., adaptive management in a permitting context. Watershed Management and Permitting Issues There are many implications of redirecting the stormwater management and regulatory system from a site-by-site, SCM-by-SCM approach to an emphasis on attainment of beneficial uses throughout a watershed. Most fundamentally, the program’s focus would shift to a primary concentration on broad goals in terms of, for example, achieving a targeted condition in a biological indicator associated with aquatic ecosystem beneficial uses or no net increase in elevated
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Urban Stormwater Management in the United States flow duration. Application of site-specific stormwater control measures (SCMs) would no longer constitute presumptive evidence of permit compliance, as is often the case in permits now, although it would still be an essential means to meeting goals. Achieving those goals, however, would form the compliance criteria. In recognition of the demonstrated negative effects of watershed hydrologic modification on the attainment of beneficial uses, the proposal steps beyond the generally prevailing practice by embracing water quantity as a concern along with water quality. The inclusion of hydrology is consistent with the CWA on several grounds. First, elevated runoff peak flow rates and volumes increase erosive shear stress on stream beds and banks and directly contribute particulate pollutants to the flow (such as suspended and settleable solids, as well as nutrients and other contaminants bound to the soil material). Conversely, reduced dry-weather flows often occur in urban streams as a result of lost groundwater recharge and tend to concentrate pollutants and, hence, worsen their biological effects. Moreover, pollutant mass loading is the product of concentration and flow volume, and thus increased wet-weather surface runoff directly augments the cumulative burden on receiving waters. Finally, regulatory precedent for incorporating hydrology exists, as demonstrated by Vermont’s stormwater program (LaFlamme, 2007). At this time, stormwater management and regulation are divorced from the management and regulation of municipal and industrial wastewater. A true watershed-based approach would incorporate the full range of municipal and industrial sources, including (1) public streets and highways; (2) municipal stormwater drainage systems; (3) municipal separate and combined wastewater collection, conveyance, and treatment systems; (4) industrial stormwater and process wastewater discharges; (5) private residential and commercial property; and (6) construction sites. These many sources represent an array of uncoordinated permits under the current system and a strong challenge to developing a watershed-based approach. As pointed out in Chapter 2, multi-source considerations are an implicit facet of TMDL assessments, wherein states must consider both point and nonpoint sources. EPA (2003b) identified, among other possible permit types, an Integrated Municipal NPDES Permit, which would bundle all requirements for a municipality (e.g., stormwater, combined sewer overflows, biosolids, pretreatment) into a single permit. The Tualatin River watershed in Oregon has faced this challenge, at least in part, through an innovative watershed permit that combines both wastewater treatment and stormwater, brings in management of agricultural contributions to thermal pollution, and allows for pollutant trading among sources (see Box 6-2). It appears that the various participating parties did not use their energies in trying to allocate blame but instead determined the most effective and efficient ways of improving conditions. For example, the municipal permittees willingly offered incentives to agricultural landowners to plant riparian shade trees as an alternative to more expensive means of reducing stream temperatures under their direct control. Indeed, with agriculture not being regulated by the Clean Water Act, watershed permitting
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Urban Stormwater Management in the United States BOX 6-2 Watershed-Based Permitting in Oregon Clean Water Services is a wastewater and stormwater utility that covers a special service district of 12 cities and unincorporated areas in urban Washington County, Oregon. It was originally chartered in the 1970s as the Unified Sewerage Agency to consolidate the management of 26 “package” wastewater treatment facilities. Its responsibilities expanded to stormwater management in the early 1990s and it now serves nearly 500,000 customers. There are four wastewater treatment plants (WWTPs) in the district, with a dry weather capacity of 71 million gallons per day (MGD). During low-flow months, the discharge from these plants can account for 50 percent of the water in the Tualatin River. The district also own rights to one-quarter of the stored water in Hagg Lake. The land use in the watershed is about one-third urban, one-third agriculture, and one-third forest. In 2001, the region was faced with TMDLs on the Tualatin River or its tributaries for total phosphorus, ammonia, temperature, bacteria, and dissolved oxygen. By 2002, the area was also dealing with four expired NPDES permits and one expired MS4 permit (all of which had been administratively extended), approval of a second TMDL, and an Endangered Species Act (ESA) listing. The region decided that it wanted to try to integrate all of these programs using a watershed-based regulatory framework. This would include a TMDL implementation mechanism, an ESA response plan, and integrated water resources management (meaning that water quantity, water quality, and habitat considerations would be made at the same time). Prior to integration, water quality was covered by the TMDL and NPDES programs, but these programs did not cover water quantity and habitat issues. The ESA listing addressed the habitat issues, but it was done totally independently of the TMDLs and NPDES permits. Thus, the region applied for an integrated municipal NPDES permit that bundles all NPDES permit requirements for a municipality into a single permit, including publicly owned treatment works (POTWs), pretreatment, stormwater, sanitary sewer overflows, and biosolids. Initially, it encompassed the four WWTP permits, the one MS4 permit, and the industrial and construction stormwater permits. The hope was that this would streamline multiple permits and capture administrative and programmatic efficiencies; provide a mechanism for implementing more cost-effective technologies and management practices including water quality credit trading; integrate watershed management across federal statutes such as the CWA, SDWA, and ESA; and encourage early and meaningful collaboration and cooperation among key stakeholders. This case study was successful because a single entity—Clean Water Services—was already in charge of what would have otherwise been a group of individual permittees. Furthermore, all the NPDES permits had expired and the TMDL had just been issued, providing a window of opportunity. The state regulatory agency was very willing, and EPA provided a $75,000 grant. Finally, there was a robust water quality database and modeling performed for the area because of the previous TMDL work. The watershed-based permit, the first in the nation, was issued February 26, 2004. Among its unique elements are an intergovernmental agreement companion document signed by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ), water quality credit trading, and consolidation of reporting requirements. The water quality trading is one of the most interesting elements, and several variations have been attempted. Biological oxygen demand (BOD) and NH3 have been traded both intra-facility and inter-facility. The temperature TMDL on the Tualatin River is a particularly interesting example of trading because it helped to bring agriculture into the process, where it would otherwise not have been involved. Along the length of the river, there are portions that exceed the temperature standard. A TMDL allocation was calculated that would lower temperatures by the
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Urban Stormwater Management in the United States same amount everywhere, such that there would be no point along the river that would be in exceedance. Options for reducing temperature include reducing the influent wastewater temperature (which is hard to do), reducing the total WWTP discharge to the Tualatin River (which is not practical), mechanically cooling or refrigerating WWTP discharge (which would require more energy), or trading the heat load via flow augmentation and increased shading (which is what was attempted). Clean Water Services choose to utilize a market-based, watershed approach to meet the Tualatin temperature TMDL. It was market-based because it had financial incentives for certain groups to participate, it was cost-effective, and it provided ancillary ecosystem services. It was a watershed-based approach because it capitalized on the total assimilative capacity of the basin. What was done was to (1) provide cooling and in-stream flow augmentation by releasing water from Hagg Lake Reservoir, and (2) trade riparian stream surface shading improvement credits. They also reused WWTP effluent in lieu of irrigation withdrawals. For the riparian shading, they developed an “enhanced” CREP program to increase the financial incentives to rural landowners (with Clean Water Services paying the difference over existing federal and state programs). Clean Water Services also made incentive payments to the Soil and Water Conservation District to hire people to act as agents of Clean Water Services. Oregon DEQ’s Shadalator model was used to quantify thermal credits for riparian planting projects, which required that information be collected at 100-foot increments along the stream on elevation, aspect, wetted width, Nordfjord-Sogn Detachment Zone, channel incision, and plant type and planting corridor width. To summarize, over the five-year term of the permit, Clean Water Services will release 30 cfs/d of stored water from Hagg Lake each July and August and shade roughly 35 miles of tributary riparian area (they have already planted 34 miles of riparian buffer). This plan involved an element of risk taking, since the actions of unregulated parties (such as farmers) have suddenly become the responsibility of Clean Water Services. and initiatives of this type represent the best, and perhaps only, mechanism for ameliorating negative effects of agricultural runoff that, left unattended, would undo gains in managing urban runoff. The Neuse River case study, discussed later in this chapter, is another example of bringing agricultural contributions to aquatic degradation under control, along with urban sources, through a watershed-based approach. Significant disadvantages of the current system of separate permits for municipal, construction, and industrial activities are (1) the permits attack the problem on a piecemeal basis, (2) they are hard to coordinate because they expire at different times, (3) they are not designed to allow for long-term operation of SCMs, and (4) they do not cover all discharges. A solution to these problems would be to integrate all discharge permitting under municipal authority, as is proposed here. The lead permittee and co-permittees would bear ultimate responsibility for meeting watershed goals and would regulate all public and private discharges within their jurisdictions to attain them. Municipalities are the natural focus for this role because they are the center of land-use decisions throughout the nation. Municipalities must be provided with substantially greater resources than they have now to take on this increased responsibility. Beyond funding, regula-
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Urban Stormwater Management in the United States tory responsibilities must be realigned to some degree. The norm now is for states to administer industrial permits directly and generally attend to all aspects of permit management. However, states, more often than not, are unable because of resource limitations to give permittees much attention in the form of inspection and feedback to ensure compliance. At the same time, some states, explicitly or implicitly, expect municipal permittees to set up programs to meet water quality standards in the waters to which all land uses under their jurisdictions discharge.1 It only makes sense in this situation to have designated states (or EPA for the others) specify criteria for industrial and construction permits but revise regulations to empower and support municipal co-permittees in compliance-related activities. This paradigm is not unprecedented in environmental permitting, as under the Clean Air Act, states develop state implementation plans for implementation by local entities. For this new arrangement to work, states would have to be comfortable that municipalities could handle the responsibility and be able to exercise the added authority granted. The committee’s opinion is that municipalities generally do have the capability, working together as co-permittees with a large-jurisdiction lead permittee and with guidance and support from states. It bears noting at the outset that the proposed new program would not reduce the present system’s reliance on general permits. Whereas a general permit now can be issued to a group of municipalities having differing circumstances, under the new system a permit could just as well be formulated in the same way for a group of varying watersheds. General industrial and construction permits would be just as prevalent too. Toward Watershed-Based Permitting Watershed-based permitting is taken in this report to mean regulated allowance of discharges of water and wastes borne by those discharges to waters of the United States, with due consideration of (1) the implications of those discharges for preservation or improvement of prevailing ecological conditions in the watershed’s aquatic systems, (2) cooperation among political jurisdictions sharing a watershed, and (3) coordinated regulation and management of all discharges having the potential to modify the hydrology and water quality of the watershed’s receiving waters. 1 For example, the second Draft Ventura County [California] Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit states (under Findings D. Permit Coverage), “Provisions of this Order apply to the urbanized areas of the municipalities, areas undergoing urbanization and areas which the Regional Water Board Executive Officer determines are discharging storm water that causes or contributes to a violation of a water quality standard … .” The permit further states (under Part 2—Receiving Water Limitations), “1. Discharges from the MS4 that cause or contribute to a violation of water quality standards are prohibited. … 3. … This Order shall be implemented to achieve compliance with receiving water limitations. If exceedence(s) of water quality objectives or water quality standards persist … the Permittee shall assure compliance with discharge prohibitions and receiving water limitations … .”
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Urban Stormwater Management in the United States Determining Watershed Scale for Permitting A fundamental question that must be answered at the outset of any move to watershed permitting is, What is a watershed? Hydrologically, a watershed is the rain catchment area draining to a point of interest. Hence, the question comes down to, Where should the point of interest be located to define watersheds for permitting purposes? If placed close to the initial sources of surface runoff (e.g., on each first-order stream just above its confluence with another first-order stream), attention would be very specifically directed. However, there would be little flexibility to devise solutions for the greatest good. For example, trading of the commodities runoff quantity and quality would be very restricted. If on the other hand the point of interest is placed far downstream, thus defining a very large watershed, a welter of issues, and probably also of involved jurisdictions, would overly confuse the management and regulatory task. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) delineates watersheds in the United States using a nationwide system based on surface hydrologic features. This system divides the country into 21 regions, 222 subregions, 352 accounting units, and 2,262 cataloging units. These hydrologic units are arranged within each other, from the smallest (cataloging units) to the largest (regions). USGS identifies each hydrologic unit by a unique hydrologic unit code (HUC) consisting of 2 to 16 digits based on the four levels of classification in the hydrologic unit system. Watersheds thus delineated are typically of the order a few square kilometers in area. This system is now being linked to the National Hydrography Dataset (NHD) and the National Land Cover Dataset to produce NHDPlus, an integrated suite of application-ready geospatial datasets. The USGS system provides a starting point. Ultimately, though, what constitutes a watershed will best be answered with reference to specific biogeophysical conditions and problems and by personnel at relatively close hand (i.e., state or regional oversight agency staff). A general guideline might be the catchment area of a waterbody influenced by a set of similar subwatersheds. Similar subbasins would presumably be amenable to similar solutions and trading off reduced efforts in some places for compensating additional efforts elsewhere, as well as to analysis and monitoring on a representative basis, instead of exhaustively throughout. Often, a watershed defined in this way would flow into another watershed and influence it. Thus, there would have to be coordination among managers and regulators of interacting watersheds. It would be common for several watersheds ranging from relatively small to large in scale to be nested. Each would have its management team, and a committee drawn from those teams should be formed to coordinate goals and actions. A prerequisite to moving toward watershed permitting, then, is for states or regions within states to delineate watersheds. California took this step early in the NPDES stormwater permitting process and offers a model in this respect, as well as in encompassing all jurisdictions coordinated by a lead permittee. First, the state organized its California EPA regional water boards on a watershed ba-
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Urban Stormwater Management in the United States sis. Furthermore, since 1992 it has been common in California to establish one jurisdiction as the lead permittee (e.g., Los Angeles County in the Los Angeles region, Orange County in the Santa Ana Region, and San Diego County in the San Diego Region) and all of the politically separate cities as co-permittees. The lead permittee has typically been the jurisdiction most widely distributed geographically in the region and large enough to develop compliance mechanisms and coordinate their implementation among all participants. Box 6-3 describes the approach taken to delineating management units within the Chesapeake Bay watershed, which comprises parts of Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, and the District of Columbia. The case study illustrates well the approach advocated here of focusing on the outcome in the receiving water and considering all aspects of land and water resources management that determine that outcome. Steps Toward Watershed-Based Permitting Once a watershed is defined, a further question arises regarding how much and what part of its territory to cover formally under permit conditions. Under the present system substantial development occurring outside Phase I or Phase II municipal jurisdictions is escaping coverage. Failing to control relatively high levels of development both outside a permitted jurisdiction and upstream of more lightly developed areas within a permitted area is particularly contrary to the watershed approach. Areas having a more urban than rural character are already essentially treated as urban in water supply and sewer planning, and the same should occur in the area of stormwater management. Accordingly, the permit should extend to any area in the watershed, even if outside Phase I or II jurisdictions, zoned or otherwise projected for development at an urban scale (e.g., more than one dwelling per acre). States do have authority under the CWA to designate any area for Phase II coverage based on projected growth or the presence of impact sources. They should be required to do so for nationwide uniformity and best protection of water resources. It is essential to clarify that watershed-based permitting as formulated in this chapter differs sharply from what has been termed watershed (or basin) planning. According to EPA, watershed planning “identifies broad goals and objectives, describes environmental problems, outlines specific alternatives for restoration and protection, and documents where, how, and by whom these action alternatives will be evaluated, selected, and implemented” (http://www.epa.gov/watertrain/planning/planning7.htm). Drawing up such a plan is a time-consuming process, which has often become an end in itself, instead of a means to an end. Completing a full watershed plan, as usually construed, should not be a prerequisite to watershed-based permitting. Rather, the anticipated process would spring much more from comprehensive, advanced scientific and technical analysis of the water resources to be managed and their contributing catchment areas than from a planning framework.
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Urban Stormwater Management in the United States pollutant of concern. Phase II MS4s should be encouraged to make incremental financial contributions to a state or regional stormwater monitoring research collaborative to conduct basic research on SCM performance and longevity. Although the committee knows of no examples where this has been accomplished, this pooling of financial resources by multiple MS4s should produce more useful scientific data to support municipal programs than could be produced by individual MS4s alone. Phase II communities that do not participate in the research collaborative would be required to perform their own outfall and/or SCM performance monitoring, at the discretion of the state or federal permitting authority. All MS4s should be required to indicate in their annual reports and permit renewal applications how they incorporated research findings into their existing stormwater programs, ordinances, and design manuals. CONCLUSIONS AND RECOMMENDATIONS The watershed-based permitting program outlined in the first part of this chapter is ultimately essential if the nation is to be successful in arresting aquatic resource depletion stemming from sources dispersed across the landscape. Smaller-scale changes to the EPA stormwater program are also possible. These include integration of industrial and construction permittees into municipal permits (“integration”), as well as a number of individual changes to the current industrial, construction, and municipal programs. Improvements to the stormwater permitting program can be made in a tiered manner. Thus, individual recommendations specific to advancing one part of the municipal, industrial, or construction stormwater programs could be implemented immediately and with limited additional funds. “Integration” will need additional funding to provide incentives and to establish partnerships between municipal permittees and their associated industries. Finally, the watershed-based permitting approach will likely take up to ten years to implement. The following conclusions and recommendations about these options are made: The greatest improvement to the EPA’s Stormwater Program would be to convert the current piecemeal system into a watershed-based permitting system. The proposed system would encompass coordinated regulation and management of all discharges (wastewater, stormwater, and other diffuse sources), existing and anticipated from future growth, having the potential to modify the hydrology and water quality of the watershed’s receiving waters. The committee proposes centralizing responsibility and authority for implementation of watershed-based permits with a municipal lead permittee working in partnership with other municipalities in the watershed as co-permittees,
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Urban Stormwater Management in the United States with enhanced authority and funding commensurate with increased responsibility. Permitting authorities would adopt a minimum goal in every watershed to avoid any further loss or degradation of designated beneficial uses in the watershed’s component waterbodies and additional goals in some cases aimed at recovering lost beneficial uses. The framework envisions the permitting authorities and municipal co-permittees working cooperatively to define careful, complete, and clear specific objectives aimed at meeting goals. Permittees, with support from the permitting authority, would then move to comprehensive scientific and technically based watershed analysis as a foundation for targeting solutions. The most effective solutions are expected to lie in isolating, to the extent possible, receiving waterbodies from exposure to those impact sources. In particular, low-impact design methods, termed Aquatic Resources Conservation Design in this report, should be employed to the full extent feasible and backed by conventional SCMs when necessary. This report also outlines a monitoring program structured to assess progress toward meeting objectives and the overlying goals, diagnosing reasons for any lack of progress, and determining compliance by dischargers. The new concept further includes market-based trading of credits among dischargers to achieve overall compliance in the most efficient manner and adaptive management to program additional actions if monitoring demonstrates failure to achieve objectives. Integration of the three permitting types, such that construction and industrial sites come under the jurisdiction of their associated municipalities, would greatly improve many deficient aspects of the stormwater program. Federal and state NPDES permitting authorities do not presently have, and can never reasonably expect to have, sufficient personnel to inspect and enforce stormwater regulations on more than 100,000 discrete point source facilities discharging stormwater. A better structure would be one where the NPDES permitting authority empowers the MS4 permittees to act as the first tier of entities exercising control on stormwater discharges to the MS4 to protect water quality. The National Pretreatment Program, EPA’s successful treatment program for municipal and industrial wastewater sources, could serve as a model for integration. Short of adopting atershed-based permitting or integration, a variety of other smaller-scale changes to the EPA stormwater program could be made now, as outlined below. EPA should issue guidance for MS4, MSGP, and CGP permittees on what constitutes a design storm for water quality purposes. Precipitation events occur across a spectrum from small, more frequent storms to larger and more extreme storms, with the latter being a more typical focus of guidance manuals to date. Permittees need guidance from regional EPA offices on what water quality considerations to design SCMs for beyond issues such as safety of human life and property. In creating the guidance there should be a good faith
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Urban Stormwater Management in the United States effort to integrate water quality requirements with existing stormwater quantity requirements. EPA should issue guidance for MS4 permittees on methods to identify high-risk industrial facilities for program prioritization such as inspections. Two visual methods for establishing rankings that have been field tested are provided in the chapter. Some of these high-risk industrial facilities and construction sites may be better covered by individual NPDES stormwater permits rather than the MSGP or the CGP, and if so would fall directly under the permitting authority and not be part of MS4 integration. EPA should support the compilation and collection of quality industrial stormwater effluent data and SCM effluent quality data in a national database. This database can then serve as a source for the agency to develop technology-based effluent guidelines for stormwater discharges from industrial sectors and high-risk facilities. EPA should develop numerical expressions to represent the MS4 standard of Maximum Extent Practicable. This could involve establishing municipal action levels based on expected outfall pollutant concentrations from the National Stormwater Quality Database, developing site-based runoff and pollutant load limits, and setting turbidity limits for construction sites. Such numerical expressions would create improved accountability, bring about consistency, and result in implementation actions that will lead to measurable reductions in stormwater pollutants in MS4 discharges. Communities should use an urban stream classification system, such as a regionally adapted version of the Impervious Cover Model, to establish realistic water quality and biodiversity goals for individual classes of subwatersheds. The goals for water and habitat quality should become less stringent as impervious cover increases within the subwatershed. This should not become an excuse to work less diligently to improve the most degraded waterways—only to recognize that equivalent, or even greater, efforts to improve water quality conditions will achieve progressively less ambitious results in more highly urbanized watersheds. This approach would provide stormwater managers with more specific, measurable, and attainable implementation strategies than the one-size-fits-all approach that is promoted in current wet weather management regulations. Better monitoring of MS4s to determine outcomes is needed. Only a small fraction of MS4 communities have provided measurable outcomes with regard to aggregate flow and pollutant reduction achieved by their municipal stormwater programs. A framework and methods to evaluate program effectiveness for each of the six minimum management measures have been outlined by CASQA (2007) and should be adopted. In addition, the lack of monitoring
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Urban Stormwater Management in the United States requirements in the Phase II stormwater program makes it virtually impossible to measure or track actual pollutant load or runoff volume reductions achieved. It is recommended that both Phase I and II MS4s shift to a more collaborative monitoring paradigm to link management efforts to receiving water quality. *** Watershed-based permitting will require additional resources and regulatory program support. Such an approach shifts more attention to ambient outcomes as well as expanded permitting coverage. Additional resources for program implementation could come from shifting existing programmatic resources. For example, some state permitting resources may be shifted away from existing point source programs toward stormwater permitting. Strategic planning and prioritization could shift the distribution of federal and state grant and loan programs to encourage and support more watershed-based stormwater permitting programs. However, securing new levels of public funds will likely be required. All levels of government must recognize that additional resources may be required from citizens and businesses (in the form of taxes, fees, etc.) in order to operate a more comprehensive and effective stormwater permitting program. REFERENCES April, S., and T. Greiner. 2000. Evaluation of the Massachusetts Environmental Results Program. Washington, DC: National Academy of Public Administration.. Atkins, J. R., C. Hollenkamp, and J. Sauber. 2007. Testing the watershed: North Carolina’s NPDES Discharge Coalition Program enables basinwide monitoring and analysis. Water Environment & Technology 19(6). Bellucci, C. 2007. Stormwater and Aquatic Life: Making the Connection Between Impervious Cover and Aquatic Life Impairments for TMDL Development in Connecticut Streams. Pp. 1003-1018 In: TMDL 2007. Alexandria, VA: Water Environment Federation. Bromberg, K. 2007. Comments to the NRC Committee on Stormwater Discharge Contributions to Water Pollution, January 22, 2007, Washington, DC. Burton, G. A., and R. E. Pitt. 2002. Stormwater Effects Handbook. Boca Raton, FL: Lewis/CRC Press. California EPA, State Water Board. 2006. Storm Water Panel Recommendations—The Feasibility of Numeric Effluent Limits Applicable to Discharges of Storm Water Associated with Municipal, Industrial, and Construction Activities. Available at http://www.cacoastkeeper.org/assets/pdf/StormWaterPanelReport_06.pdf. Campbell, R. M. 2007. Achieving a Successful Storm Water Permit Program in Oregon. Natural Resources & Environment 21(4):39-44.
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