National Stormwater Rulemaking

EPA’s Post-Construction Stormwater Rulemaking

Polluted stormwater runoff is one of the leading causes of pollution to our streams, rivers, and lakes across the country, and stormwater pollution is the single largest water quality problem in certain places including the Great Lakes. However, today’s pollution controls and management approaches are woefully inadequate to deal with this problem.  Now, for the first time in years, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced its intention to tackle this issue through new national stormwater regulations slated for proposal in June 2013 and finalized by December 2014.

EPA’s commitment to substantially improve its national stormwater regulations has the potential to curtail and prevent this major and growing source of water pollution. The rule change presents a major opportunity to advance green infrastructure approaches, building upon strong state permits, policies, and examples from across the country.

Proposed Areas EPA May Address

Specifically, the areas that EPA has identified to address include:

  • Expanding the area subject to federal stormwater regulations;
  • Establishing specific requirements to control stormwater discharges from new development and redevelopment; 
  • Developing a single set of consistent stormwater requirements for all municipal separate stormwater systems (MS4s); 
  • Requiring MS4s to address stormwater discharges in areas of existing development through retrofitting the storm system or drainage area with improved stormwater control measures; 
  • Exploring specific stormwater provisions to protect sensitive areas.

As part of the stormwater rule, American Rivers is Advocating for the following:

  1. EPA must adopt new Objective Performance Standards which are necessary to drive significant water quality improvements and create regulatory mechanisms that require the use of Low Impact Development and Green Infrastructure approaches to stormwater management wherever possible. These standards must represent a minimum level of performance, must not preempt the adoption of more stringent standards in a region or watershed, and must not promote sprawl development.
  2. EPA should require retrofits in already developed public and private areas, and as part of infrastructure reconstruction projects.  Reducing effective imperviousness through green infrastructure-based approaches is necessary to diminish the impacts of existing stormwater pollution.
  3. EPA should improve pollution control and watershed protection by targeting areas subject to stormwater regulation based on pollutant contribution and impact and the need to prevent degradation of high quality waters. Areas of new or expected development, critical or sensitive watersheds and impervious areas that cause or contribute to water quality problems should be targeted.  
  4. Total Maximum Daily Loads/Water Quality Standards – TMDL waste load allocations must be fully incorporated into stormwater permits. 
  5. Enforceable Permits and Plans – New and revised permits must include terms that are clear, measureable, objective, specific and enforceable so that permittees are held accountable. Implementation plans must include benchmarks and deadlines.

Protective Stormwater Standards and Smart Growth:

Clean water and healthy communities go hand in hand. Urban areas are increasingly using green infrastructure to create multiple benefits for their communities. However, there have been questions whether strong stormwater standards could unintentionally deter urban redevelopment and shift development to environmentally damaging sprawl. Working with Smart Growth America, the Center for Neighborhood Technology, River Network and NRDC, we commissioned a report by ECONorthwest titled “Managing Stormwater in Redevelopment and Greenfield Development Projects Using Green Infrastructure.” Highlighting several communities that are protecting clean water and fostering redevelopment, the findings show that clean water and urban redevelopment are compatible.

For more information:
U.S. EPA Rulemaking
National Research Council Report (PDF)
U.S. EPA Green Infrastructure
Energy Independence and Security Act Technical Guidance
Clouded Waters, Cloudy Facts: Truth-checking the Senate Environment and Public Works Committee, Minority Report on EPA Water Regulations [PDF]