Protecting Clean Water in Washington, One Permit (or Three) at a Time

Do your eyes glaze over immediately at the word “permit”?

Although they might not be the most stimulating of conversation starters, Clean Water Act permits are critical to the protection and restoration of clean rivers, lakes, and streams. By setting limits for what can be released into our waterways, these permits essentially act as the gatekeepers of clean water.

In other words, getting Clean Water Act permits right is vitally important to protecting our rivers!

Pollution entering rivers, lakes, and streams can come from a number of different sources – from pipes at sewage treatment plants (‘point source‘ [PDF] pollution) to urban runoff from parking lots (‘nonpoint source‘ pollution). Polluted runoff in particular is one of the only growing sources of pollution across the country and one of the primary sources of pollution in Puget Sound. 

Right now, the Washington Department of Ecology is reviewing and updating its permits to control polluted runoff into the Spokane River, the Lewis River, Puget Sound, and other waters across the state. Specifically, the Department released its draft Phase I Municipal Stormwater General Permit [PDF] for Western Washington and Phase II Municipal Stormwater permits for Eastern and Western Washington. These permits provide a critical opportunity to incorporate green infrastructure practices to manage polluted runoff, to expand the areas that have to take action to address runoff, to take a watershed-scale approach that incorporates land use into water management, and to gather important information on the status of our rivers through monitoring. 

These draft permits are open to public comment until February 3rd. Reducing polluted runoff by capturing rainwater where it falls through green infrastructure practices is critical to keeping bacteria, heavy metals, and other pollutants out of rivers like the Skagit River and Puget Sound in Washington and across the country.

Clean Water Act permits may not seem like the most thrilling way to protect our rivers, but they are essential to our efforts to reduce pollution and keep them healthy!