Stormwater update

July 2008 » Exclusive
Stormwater seems to be a hot topic these days. The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has responded by initiating many new products and initiatives, which are highlighted here along with upcoming plans.
Nikos Singelis

What’s happening at the EPA

Stormwater seems to be a hot topic these days—not only in the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency’s (EPA’s) Water Program, but also at conferences, in journal articles, and in discussions with state and municipal officials. During the last year or so, in keeping with the general rise in interest in all things environmental, the national stormwater program has received more attention and focus. The EPA has responded by initiating many new products and initiatives, which are highlighted here along with upcoming plans.

Recent developments
Low-impact development or green infrastructure
—Many names describe this important, common-sense stormwater management concept. Low-impact development (LID), or green infrastructure, is based on the simple idea of creating stormwater management systems that mimic natural hydrology. The idea is to promote infiltration and evapotranspiration of stormwater near where it falls and to avoid or mitigate the impacts of increased runoff volumes on streams, lakes, and coastal waters. EPA has a number of efforts underway to promote this stormwater management concept, including a voluntary agreement that has been signed by more than 50 national organizations. A wide variety of information and resources are available at these two EPA websites: www.epa.gov/npdes/greeninfrastructure and www.epa.gov/nps/lid.

Urban Stormwater Retrofit Practice Manual—This new manual, published by the Center for Watershed Protection (with funding from EPA), provides detailed information to help stormwater managers develop and implement effective retrofit programs in their communities. The manual contains guidance and tools to help identify and prioritize potential retrofit areas and design appropriate and cost-effective stormwater management systems. The manual is available for free download at www.cwp.org; view a recorded webcast on this topic at www.epa.gov/npdes/training.

Stormwater compliance strategy—This new compliance monitoring strategy covers all aspects of the NPDES stormwater program, including the Phase I and II municipal, industrial, and construction programs. This strategy was developed and issued by EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance and sets goals for EPA and state audits and inspections (note that 45 states are authorized to implement the NPDES program; EPA is the permitting authority in unauthorized states, most territories, and most Indian country lands). This multi-year strategy will guide EPA and state enforcement and compliance efforts. find the strategy here.

Reducing stormwater costs through low-impact development strategies and practices—This new study, published by EPA’s Office of Water, highlights 17 case studies that document cost savings associated with implementing LID strategies. LID techniques can reduce the amount of materials needed for paving roads and driveways and for installing curbs, gutters, and underground stormwater infrastructure. These case studies generally show that LID practices result in lower overall project costs and improved environmental performance. Capital cost savings ranged from 15 percent to 80 percent, with a few exceptions. Find this study at www.epa.gov/owow/nps/lid/costs07.

Stormwater and TMDLs—Many of the nation’s waters are impaired, and urban stormwater is a frequent source of these pollution problems. The state environmental agencies are developing thousands of total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) to help guide restoration of these watersheds. Historically, many of these TMDLs focused on traditional point sources of pollution such as industrial sources or municipal wastewater treatment plants. Increasingly, EPA and state environmental agencies are realizing that many TMDLs will need to consider urban stormwater sources to address fully these water quality problems. Developing TMDLs for stormwater sources is a relatively new and challenging task. EPA is working closely with state programs and has documented a number of promising approaches in a new document called "Summary of 17 TMDLs with Stormwater Sources." This document is available at www.epa.gov/owow/tmdl/17_TMDLs_Stormwater_Sources.pdf.

On the horizon
Stormwater and the Clean Watersheds Needs Survey
—EPA has a significant effort underway to improve stormwater capital needs reporting in the Clean Watersheds Needs Survey. This survey, which is conducted every four years, collects documented needs for capital projects for a wide variety of projects related to the Clean Water Act. Historically, this survey has reported needs associated with municipal wastewater treatment. Stormwater, as a category, has been part of the Survey for several years, but reporting has been very limited. Data collection for the 2008 survey began in February and will continue through February 2009.

EPA is reaching out this year to its state and municipal stormwater partners to encourage broad participation in the survey. If you are associated with a municipal or county stormwater program, we strongly encourage you to get involved in the Needs Survey process this year and report your capital needs for stormwater infrastructure in your community. To find out more about the 2008 Clean Watersheds Needs Survey process, please visit www.epa.gov/cwns/cwns2008.htm or contact your state Needs Survey coordinator (contact information is available on this webpage).

New national construction and development regulation—EPA is developing a national regulation, called an Effluent Limitation Guideline, to better address the impacts of sediment and other pollutants from construction sites. At press time, EPA was developing a proposal for public comment that would set technology-based requirements for the industry. This regulation, when finalized, would apply across the country. EPA and state NPDES permitting authorities will need to incorporate the provisions of this final regulation in their construction general permits. A public comment period on this Effluent Limitation Guideline for the construction and development industry should occur in early to mid-summer 2008. For more information on this regulation, visit www.epa.gov/waterscience.

Stormwater webcast series—The popular webcast series for local stormwater professionals is now in its third year. This year we are offering five webcasts to help stormwater managers build better stormwater programs. Topics include the following: BMP Performance, The Art and Science of Stormwater Retrofitting, MS4 Program Performance, and Advanced Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination Methods. In July, EPA will also offer a Stormwater 101 course for those new to the stormwater program or those in need of a refresher. Find a schedule of stormwater webcasts at www.epa.gov/npdes/training. Earlier stormwater webcasts were recorded and are available anytime at the link above.

Conclusion
So much is happening in the stormwater program and the next several years look to be very busy for all of us. The best way to keep up with all the latest happenings in EPA’s stormwater program is to sign up for our periodic e-mail newsletter, NPDES News, at www.epa.gov/npdes/npdesnews. Also browse our website at www.epa.gov/npdes/stormwater, which features essential resources to better manage municipal, construction, and industrial stormwater.

Nikos Singelis is a senior program analyst for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. He can be reached at singelis.nikos@epamail.epa.gov.


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