risdictions sharing a watershed, and (3) coordinated regulation and management of all discharges having the potential to modify the hydrology and water quality of the watershed’s receiving waters.
Responsibility and authority for implementation of watershed-based permits would be centralized with a municipal lead permittee working in partnership with other municipalities in the watershed as co-permittees. Permitting authorities (designated states or, otherwise, EPA) would adopt a minimum goal in every watershed to avoid any further loss or degradation of designated beneficial uses in the watershed’s component waterbodies and additional goals in some cases aimed at recovering lost beneficial uses. Permittees, with support by the states or EPA, would then move to comprehensive impact source analysis as a foundation for targeting solutions. The most effective solutions are expected to lie in isolating, to the extent possible, receiving waterbodies from exposure to those impact sources. In particular, low-impact design methods, termed Aquatic Resources Conservation Design in this report, should be employed to the fullest extent feasible and backed by conventional SCMs when necessary.
The approach gives municipal co-permittees more responsibility, with commensurately greater authority and funding, to manage all of the sources discharging, directly or through municipally owned conveyances, to the waterbodies comprising the watershed. This report also outlines a new monitoring program structured to assess progress toward meeting objectives and the overlying goals, diagnosing reasons for any lack of progress, and determining compliance by dischargers. The proposal further includes market-based trading of credits among dischargers to achieve overall compliance in the most efficient manner and adaptive management to determine additional actions if monitoring demonstrates failure to achieve objectives.
As a first step to taking the proposed program nationwide, a pilot program is recommended that will allow EPA to work through some of the more predictable impediments to watershed-based permitting, such as the inevitable limits of an urban municipality’s authority within a larger watershed.
Short of adopting watershed-based permitting, other smaller-scale changes to the EPA stormwater program are possible. These recommendations do not preclude watershed-based permitting at some future date, and indeed they lay the groundwork in the near term for an eventual shift to watershed-based permitting.
Integration of the three permitting types is necessary, such that construction and industrial sites come under the jurisdiction of their associated municipalities. Federal and state NPDES permitting authorities do not presently have, and can never reasonably expect to have, sufficient personnel to inspect and enforce stormwater regulations on more than 100,000 discrete point source facilities discharging stormwater. A better structure would be one where the NPDES permitting authority empowers the MS4 permittees to act as the first tier of entities exercising control on stormwater discharges to the MS4 to protect