Regulatory Programs

The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), established by the Clean Water Act, requires permits for the discharge of pollutant material into water bodies, with the states ultimately establishing the standard at or below the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) established maxima. The NPDES permitting program is the primary regulatory program addressing point source discharges, and is often recognized as being responsible for improvements in water quality in specific areas of coastal systems.

Data collected as required by NPDES urban stormwater permits are proving to be very useful to develop area- and land-use specific runoff coefficients, a secondary benefit of the permitting program. To date, sparse literature values, often from areas of the country far from the coastal area of concern, have been the only readily available information for specific loading measurements from a variety of land uses. Runoff coefficients representative of local conditions provide much-needed information for developing adequate nutrient loading budgets and are critical in developing watershed-based nutrient management strategies.

The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program, established under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act, focuses on identifying and restoring the Nation’s polluted waterbodies.

The goal of a TMDL is the attainment of water quality standards. A TMDL is a written, quantitative assessment of water quality problems and contributing pollutant sources. It can identify the need for point source and nonpoint source controls. Under this provision, States are required to (1) identify and list waterbodies where State water quality standards are not being met following the application of technology-based point source pollution controls; and (2) establish TMDLs for these waters. EPA must review and approve (or disapprove) State lists and TMDLs. If State actions are not adequate, EPA must prepare lists and TMDLs. EPA has revised TMDL program regulations and guidance for public review and comment.


The Coastal Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program (CNSPCP) (Section 6217 of the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990), administered by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), EPA, and the states, addresses nonpoint pollution problems in coastal waters. Section 6217 requires the 29 states and territories

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