Technical Resources

This Week in Washington



November 4, 2011                                            Vol. 1, No. 8 



California Dreaming – Advancing an Integrated Approach to Stormwater Management 

From flood control to water quality concerns, the stormwater paradigm has continued to shift in California. Now, as a result of increased water demand and scarcity issues, the state is searching for ways to leverage stormwater as a supply. The struggle lies in meeting flood control and environmental requirements while finding ways to bolster supplies with stormwater capture and beneficial use.

One solution — already successfully executed in Los Angeles County for more than 40 years — is recharging groundwater basins with stormwater. The Los Angeles County Department of Public Works augments the area's potable water supply with about 270 million m3 (220,000 ac-ft/yr) of mixed stormwater and reclaimed water. If purchased from the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, this water would be worth approximately $120 million.

Despite this longstanding example, the beneficial use of stormwater in California actually is a new and evolving concept with a unique set of challenges. These challenges are underpinned by jurisdictional, regulatory, and economic constraints.

First, under current regulatory and administrative regimes, stormwater stakeholders often have competing interests. For example, California stormwater permits now commonly hold a lead permittee liable for numeric effluent discharge standards, creating enforcement challenges between co-permitees.

In addition, capturing and using stormwater can cost more than using traditional supplies. "However, this downside is, at least partially, offset by several key advantages. Stormwater capture delivers "better bang for the buck," including better flood control as well as cleaner beaches and waterways. Using stormwater also diversifies the water portfolio and therefore increases the security of potable water supplies.

California already faces water scarcity issues, which are forecast to worsen with climate change. Snowpack — projected to decline 20% to 40% by 2050 — provides much of the state's water supply. Therefore, climate change is critical to forecasting water and infrastructure needs accurately, and stormwater will become an increasingly valuable supply component.

Because of these drivers, California has begun to address challenges associated with stormwater use.

A number of institutions are collaborating actively with various stakeholders to develop stormwater solutions. For instance, a task force of the Southern California Stormwater Committee brings together multiple stakeholders — water purveyors, flood control districts, and federal agencies — to develop strategies for reducing runoff pollution problems, providing flood control, and using stormwater effectively as a water supply.

In addition, Ventura County and the City of Los Angeles promulgated municipal building codes that require new and redevelopment projects to integrate low-impact development practices, thereby providing incentives associated with multiple benefits as part of integrated sustainable local water resource development solutions.

Both examples show that flexibility, innovation, and collaboration are required to advance stormwater management policies and practices in a more integrated manner, from the state to local level. 

Written by Alex Sandu and Simon Bluestone with MWH (Broomfield, Colo.) 



WEF Events 

Evaluating Stormwater Outreach: Is Anyone Listening?
Nov. 9
2–3:30 p.m. EST
No-charge WEF webcast

Wet Weather Disinfection: Issues and Challenges
Nov. 30
1:30–3:30 p.m. EST
No-charge WEF webcast 

Member Association Events 

Chesapeake Water Environment Federation
Wet Weather Issues, Piped & Un-Piped
Nov. 15
Linthicum, Md.

Other Events 

Texas AgriLife Extension and Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board
Free Texas Watershed Steward training workshops
Nov. 9–10

IWRN Seventh Inter-American Dialogue on Water Management
Plaza Mayor
Medellín, Colombia
Nov. 13–19

Water Environment Research Foundation
WERF Online Research Forum
Dec. 6
11 a.m.–5 p.m. EST

2011 Great Lakes Restoration Initiative Quality Technical Conference
Dec. 6–8

APEGBC: Stormwater Modeling
Dec. 14
Kelowna, British Columbia, Canada

CHI International Conference on Stormwater and Urban Water Systems Modeling
Feb. 22–23, 2012
Toronto, Ontario, Canada


 EPA Signals Delay in Release of Stormwater Rule 

At WEFTEC 2011, Jim Hanlon, U. S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Water director, stated that EPA has not finalized analyses and alternative selection for the proposed stormwater rule, due for release Dec. 15. Following alternative selection, the proposed rule must undergo review by the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Given the complexity of the rule, it is expected that OMB will likely follow the standard 90-day review window. Although EPA has not formally altered the release date, it appears the agency will not meet the Dec. 15 deadline. The Water Environment Federation (Alexandria, Va.) is following the proposed rule closely and will publish a special edition of the Stormwater Report and host a webcast explaining the rule and discussing its effects after the final release.

WEF Forms Stormwater Committee

At WEFTEC 2011, the Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Board of Trustees voted to sunset the Stormwater Coordinating Council (SWCC) and form a Stormwater Committee (SWC). Unlike a council, WEF committees are made up of volunteer members tasked with developing technical products and programming. The SWC will lead WEF's efforts to encourage innovative approaches, sound management strategies, policy engagement and enhanced public outreach for stormwater professionals.

"WEF recognizes the importance of stormwater management in the compliment of professionals addressing the challenging water quality issues of this century," said new Stormwater Committee Chair Mike Beezhold. "I am honored and excited to serve as the Chair for this new committee, which reflects a renewed commitment and vision for the future of stormwater management." 

WEF will offer a Stormwater Symposium July 18–20, 2012 in Baltimore. With over 200 abstracts submitted, "the initial overwhelming interest in the symposium is reflective of the growing need for information and direction in the field of stormwater management," said Beezhold.

The SWC will be co-chaired by Wing Tam with help from Tad Slawecki, past vice chair of the SWCC.
More InformationJoin Online 

U.S. EPA Addresses Concerns About Groundwater Pollution From Green Infrastructure

A 2008 U.S. Environmental Protection Agency memo provides clarification on when green infrastructure practices may be regulated as Class V Underground Injection Wells. EPA will not provide further clarification within the proposed stormwater rule, contrary to a statement made at a September meeting of the Groundwater Protection Council.

The memo provides guidance on the few instances in which green infrastructure could be categorized as Class V wells and therefore subject to Safe Drinking Water Act permits. 


WEF YPs Take On Stormwater Community Service

The Water Environment Federation (WEF; Alexandria, Va.) Students and Young Professionals Committee completed its fourth annual community service project Oct. 15 during WEFTEC® in Los Angeles. Nearly 90 volunteers participated, planting 37 trees at South Los Angeles Wetlands Park. The wetland is designed to capture and filter stormwater runoff before it enters the Los Angeles River, and volunteers created a stormwater irrigation system for the trees using infiltration piping.
PicturesPress Release


Studies Tout the Benefits of Green Infrastructure

The American Society of Landscape Architects (ASLA) released a database of 479 stormwater case studies from 43 states, the District of Columbia, and Canada. These studies highlight the advantages of green infrastructure, including benefits to the bottom line. Of the projects in the database, 75% actually reduced development costs or had no impact on them. ASLA also recently teamed up with the Water Environment Federation, National Association of Clean Water Agencies, and American Rivers to present a congressional briefing on the benefits of green infrastructure. See presentation slides or read the Oct. 28 issue of This Week in Washington for more information.  






According to another recent report — Water Works: Rebuilding Infrastructure, Creating Jobs, Greening the Environment the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency estimates that an investment of $188.4 billion is necessary to manage stormwater and preserve water quality. Spread over the next 5 years, this investment could generate $265.6 billion in economic activity and create nearly 1.9 million jobs. The report, with a focus on green infrastructure, breaks out job creation estimates for each state and discusses workforce opportunities. The report was created by Green For All along with American Rivers, the Economic Policy Institute, and the Pacific Institute, with funding by the Rockefeller Foundation.

D.C. Adopts Precedent-Setting Stormwater Permit

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) on Oct. 5 approved the District of Columbia's , mandating 350,000 ft of green roofs. The permit encourages other forms of green infrastructure as well requiring new development with footprints of 5000 ft or larger to retain 1.2 in. of rainfall over a 24-hour period. The permit also calls for retrofits on 18 million ft of impervious surfaces and a reduction in the trash loading of the Anacostia River by at least 103,000 lb/yr.

L.A. County Court Case Could Affect Navigable Water Definition

The Los Angeles County Flood Control District on Oct. 11 petitioned the U. S. Supreme Court to review a Ninth Circuit Court ruling. If the Supreme Court takes on this issue, judges would decide if navigable waters under the Clean Water Act (CWA) encompass only natural waterbodies.

The Ninth Circuit Court found the district liable for stormwater pollution that originated from upstream dischargers but was conveyed within the San Gabriel and Los Angeles rivers. The court stated that highly channelized portions of these rivers flow into natural areas and should be treated as outfalls subject to permit violations. However, the district argued that alterations to a river do not change its designation as a navigable waterbody under the CWA, and thus points where manmade sections terminate cannot constitute outfalls.

WERF Seeks Proposals on Nutrient Modeling

The Water Environment Research Foundation (WERF; Alexandria, Va.) currently is seeking proposals for an applicability analysis of and guidance on existing models for water quality criteria to protect designated uses from nutrient impacts. Proposals are due by Nov. 18 at 5:00 p.m. Eastern Standard Time.

WERF recently released a stormwater best management practice (BMP) performance analysis compendium, which summarizes data from the International BMP Database on five parameters: nutrients, solids, metals, fecal indicator bacteria and runoff volume. A related digest presents the information in a condensed format.

D.C. Breaks Ground on Largest Construction Project Since Metro  

On Oct. 12, the District of Columbia Water and Sewer Authority broke ground on its $2.6 billion — the largest construction project since the building of the city's Metrorail. The first phase of the project, a 594,000-m (157-million-gal) storage/conveyance tunnel, is designed to eliminate 90% of combined sewer overflows to the Anacostia River. Future projects will focus on reducing overflows reaching the Potomac River and Rock Creek.

Logging Subject to Clean Water Act Permitting Without Supreme Court Action

In mid-October, 26 states filed an amicus brief asking the U. S. Supreme Court to overturn Decker v. Northwest Environmental Defense Center, U.S. This court case classifies logging as an industrial, rather than agricultural, activity subject to Clean Water Act permitting for point sources. States write that this ruling contradicts U.S. Environmental Protection Agency and congressional directives that runoff from logging operations be treated as a nonpoint source mitigated with best management practices.

Montana District Court Allows for Watershed-Based TMDLs

The Montana Federal District Court ruled that it would be more efficient to address total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) on a watershed basis than by individual waterbodies. The decision made in Friends of the Wild Swan, et al. v. EPA, et al. amended a 2004 court order that required Montana to address all waterbodies listed in the state's 1996 list of impaired waters by the end of 2012. The recent federal court decision gave the state an additional 2 years to achieve compliance, but included waterways not listed as impaired in the 2004 court order.

Cloud ImageCheck It Out!

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency recently released a series of videos, Reduce Runoff: Slow it Down, Spread it out, Soak it in! The set of four educational videos provides an introduction to controlling runoff in urban areas and can help municipalities communicate with the public. Click here to watch the videos in small-screen format and for ordering information.

This month the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service also released the Status of Trends of Wetlands in the Conterminous United States 2004–2009. The 5-year survey shows that wetland losses are slowing. However, the average annual loss between 2004 and 2009 was still 5590 ha (13,800 ac). Since wetlands naturally filter stormwater pollution and serve as storm buffers, conservation and reconstruction remain important goals.