California Protects Water with Stormwater Management

Article excerpt

The discharge of water runoff, more commonly known as stormwater, from virtually every city, county and town in the urbanized areas of California is now covered by a stormwater permit issued by the state under authority of the state's water quality law and the federal Clean Water Act.

The Clean Water Act requires medium and large municipalities to seek permit coverage under the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's (EPA) 1990 Phase I regulations; smaller municipalities were brought under permit through the 1999 Phase II stormwater regulations.

These regulations require municipalities to develop, implement and enforce a stormwater quality management program to reduce the discharge of pollutants to the "maximum extent practicable" to protect water quality.

To comply with these standards, municipalities develop and implement stormwater discharge management controls known as best management practices to prevent or reduce the discharge of pollutants into water bodies.

The practices can include filtering and treating runoff, catch-basin cleaning, illegal dumping controls, used oil and household hazardous waste collection, and good housekeeping at facilities.

The examples in this story describe some of the innovative projects and programs developed by California municipalities to protect water quality and comply with stormwater regulations.

The California Stormwater Quality Association

Since 1989, the California Stormwater Quality Association (CASQA) has assisted California, the EPA, municipalities, special districts and businesses in developing and implementing effective water quality management programs in California. CASQA is a leader in helping California comply with the municipal and industrial National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) stormwater mandates of the federal Clean Water Act.

CASQA comprises stormwater quality management individuals and organizations, including cities, counties, special districts, industries and consulting firms throughout the state.

Stormwater permits, programs and legal challenges make it a rapidly changing field where current information is a must.

CASQA keeps its members up-to-date on the latest information affecting stormwater programs in California through e-mail bulletins, presentations, web postings and committee activities. CASQA holds full-day meetings throughout the state at least once every quarter with typical attendance close to 100 people. The meetings include presentations by experts from across the state and nation.

CASQA's multiple subcommittees provide an opportunity for in-depth collaboration on specific water quality issues statewide.

Many overlapping sets of planning, permitting and standards regulations, at both the state and federal level, govern the management of water quality in California.

These regulations are constantly undergoing revision, refinement and interpretation. CASQA uses experts to help assess and understand the impacts of proposed changes and to communicate effectively with the regulatory agencies considering these changes.

Programs to improve water quality in California through NPDES permits and related water quality-standard attainment strategies balance quality of life (for both humans and the environment) with costs. CASQA provides information that can be used by policy-makers in making these important decisions.

Long Beach Pursues Innovative Solutions

The goal of the Long Beach Stormwater Management Plan is to protect the beneficial uses of receiving waters, such as rivers, estuaries, lagoons and the ocean, by reducing and controlling pollutants from entering the storm drain system.

Since acquiring its municipal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit five years ago, the city's stormwater program has become more effective.

The program received the International Golden Web Award for the storm-water website, www. …