EPA’s Current Guidance on Watershed-Based Permitting
Rather than explicitly define watershed based permitting, the EPA’s recent guidance (EPA, 2007a) groups a large number of activities as having elements of watershed-based permitting, and defines how each might be utilized by a community. They are
Taking these topics in order, the first option is generally similar to that in EPA (2003a,b), but with some more detail on possible permitting forms. “Coordinated individual permits” implies that individual permits would be made similar and set with respect to one another and to a holistic watershed goal. The nature of such permits is not fully described, and there are no examples given. An “integrated municipal permit,” also presented in the earlier policy statement, would place the disparate individual NPDES permits in a municipality (e.g., wastewater plants, combined sewer overflows, municipal separate storm sewer systems [MS4s]) under one permit. However, such a permit is not necessarily watershed-based. Finally, the “multi-source permit” could go in numerous directions, none of which are described in detail. In one concept, all current individual permittees who discharge a common pollutant into a watershed would come under one new individual permit that regulates that pollutant, while keeping the existing individual permits intact for other purposes. The Neuse River Consortium is given as an example. Alternatively, a multi-source permit could cover all dischargers of a particular type now falling under one individual permit that regulates all of their pollutants (no examples are given). In yet another application, this permit could be a general permit, and it would be identical to the existing general permits, except that it would be organized along watershed boundaries. As above, it could be refined on the basis of pollutant or discharger type.
The other ten options are more distant from the fundamental concept of watershed-based permitting. The water quality trading description is minimal, though it does mention a new EPA document that gives guidance to permittees for trading. Wet weather integration, the third topic, can mean any number of things, from creating a single permit to cover all discharges of pollutants during wet weather in a municipality, as described above for “coordinated individual permits,” to just having all the managers of the systems get together and strategize. Although a stated goal is to reduce the amount of water in the sewer system after a storm, this integration is not particularly well defined in the document, nor is it well differentiated from other activities that would normally occur under an MS4 permit.