TABLE 2-1 Legal and Regulatory Milestones for the Stormwater Program


Rivers and Harbors Act. A navigation-oriented statute that was used in the 1960s and 1970s to challenge unpermitted pollutant discharges from industry.




Federal Water Pollution Control Act. Provided matching funds for wastewater treatment facilities, grants for state water pollution control programs, and limited federal authority to act against interstate pollution.


Water Quality Act. Required states to adopt water quality standards for interstate waters subject to federal approval. It also required states to adopt state implementation plans, although failure to do so would not result in a federally implemented plan. As a result, enforceable requirements against polluting industries, even in interstate waters, was limited.


Federal Water Pollution Control Act. First rigorous national law prohibiting the discharge of pollutants into surface waters without a permit.

  • Goal is to restore and maintain health of U.S. waters

  • Protection of aquatic life and human contact recreation by 1983

  • Eliminate discharge of pollutants by 1985

  • Wastewater treatment plant financing


Clean Water Act Section 303(d)

  • Contains a water quality-based strategy for waters that remain polluted after the implementation of technology-based standards.

  • Requires states to identify waters that remain polluted, to determine the total maximum daily loads that would reverse the impairments, and then to allocate loads to sources. If states do not perform these actions, EPA must.


Clean Water Act Section 208

  • Designated and funded the development of regional water quality management plans to assess regional water quality, propose stream standards, identify water quality problem areas, and identify wastewater treatment plan long-term needs. These plans also include policy statements which provide a common consistent basis for decision making.



Clean Water Act Sections 301 and 402

  • Control release of toxic pollutants to U.S. waters

  • Technology treatment standards for conventional pollutants and priority toxic pollutants.

  • Recognition of technology limitations for some processes.


NRDC vs. Costle. Required EPA to include stormwater discharges in the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program.


Clean Water Act Amended Sections 301 and 402

  • Control toxic pollutants discharged to U.S. waters.

  • Manage urban stormwater pollution.

  • Numerical criteria for all toxic pollutants.

  • Integrated control strategies for impaired waters.

  • Stormwater permit programs for urban areas and industry.

  • Stronger enforcement penalties.

  • Anti-backsliding provisions.

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