Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations

EPA's Stormwater Program Needs Significant Overhaul

Date:
October 31, 2008
Source:
National Academy of Sciences
Summary:
Radical changes to the US Environmental Protection Agency's stormwater program are necessary to reverse degradation of fresh water resources and ensure progress toward the Clean Water Act's goal of "fishable and swimmable" waters, says a new report. Increased water volume and pollutants from stormwater have degraded water quality and habitats in virtually every urban stream system.

Radical changes to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's stormwater program are necessary to reverse degradation of fresh water resources and ensure progress toward the Clean Water Act's goal of "fishable and swimmable" waters, says a new report from the National Research Council.

Related Articles


Increased water volume and pollutants from stormwater have degraded water quality and habitats in virtually every urban stream system. To provide meaningful regulation, all stormwater and other wastewater discharge permits should be based on watershed boundaries instead of political boundaries. Moreover, the program should integrate stormwater management and land management practices, and focus less on chemical pollutants in the stormwater and more on the increased flow of water.

Following rain or snow in urban areas, large quantities of water flow over impervious surfaces -- such as streets, parking lots, and rooftops -- and pick up various pollutants like garbage, asphalt sealants, motor fuels, and other chemicals. This polluted stormwater is then collected by natural channels and artificial drainage systems and ultimately routed to nearby streams, rivers, and other bodies of water.

Although urban stormwater's role in degrading the nation's water supply has been recognized for decades, reducing that role has been difficult. In 1987, Congress brought stormwater control into the Clean Water Act and placed it under the supervision of the Environmental Protection Agency, which now oversees stormwater discharged by cities, industries, and construction sites. However, the current regulatory framework for stormwater, which was originally designed to address sewage and industrial wastes, has suffered from poor accountability and uncertainty about its effectiveness at improving water quality. In light of these challenges, EPA asked the Research Council to assess its stormwater permitting program.

EPA's current approach is not likely to produce an accurate picture of the extent of the problem, nor is it likely to control stormwater's contribution to impairing water quality, said the committee that wrote the report. Currently, stormwater and wastewater regulations require separate permits; within stormwater regulations, different types of permits exist for municipalities, industries, and construction sites.

The committee recommended that EPA should adopt a watershed-based permitting system that would encompass all discharges -- including stormwater and wastewater -- which could impact waterways in a particular drainage basin, rather than having many individual permits. Responsibility and authority for implementing watershed-based permits should be centralized with a lead municipality that would work in partnership with other municipalities. In addition, lead municipalities should receive enhanced funding to compensate for increased responsibility, the committee suggested.

Even in the absence of adopting watershed-based permitting, additional adjustments could be made to the stormwater program, such as bringing construction and industrial sites under the jurisdiction of their associated municipalities, referred to as "integration" by the committee. Federal and state permitting authorities do not have nor could 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 allow operators of municipal storm sewer systems to act as the first tier of control. EPA's successful treatment program for municipal and industrial wastewater sources could serve as a model for integration.

Because the area being appropriated for urban land use is growing faster than the population, stormwater management will be ineffective without also considering land use management, the report says. Future land development and its potential increases in stormwater must be considered and addressed in the EPA's stormwater regulatory program. For example, permit programs could be predicated on rigorous projections of future growth and changes in impervious cover, or regulators could be encouraged to use incentives to lessen the impact of land development.

Additionally, the committee recommended that the stormwater program focus less on chemical pollutants and more on the increased volume of water. In urban areas, stormwater flows rapidly across the land surfaces and arrives at streams in short, concentrated bursts of high water discharges, which in turn increases streambank erosion and accompanying sediment pollution of surface water. The volume of discharges is generally not regulated at all by EPA, the committee noted. Also, little account is given to the cumulative contributions of multiple sources and pollutants in the same watershed, because most discharges are regulated on an individual basis.

Further stormwater control measures assessed by the committee include: conserving natural areas, reducing hard surface cover such as roads and parking lots that channel stormwater into waterways, and retrofitting urban areas with features that hold and treat stormwater. Moreover, the committee recommended that the federal government provide more financial support to state and local efforts to regulate stormwater. Funds for the wastewater program greatly outnumber the stormwater program, even though there are five times more stormwater permit holders than wastewater permit holders.

The report was sponsored by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. The National Academy of Sciences, National Academy of Engineering, Institute of Medicine, and National Research Council make up the National Academies. They are private, nonprofit institutions that provide science, technology, and health policy advice under a congressional charter. The Research Council is the principal operating agency of the National Academy of Sciences and the National Academy of Engineering.

The full report can be purchased here.


Story Source:

The above story is based on materials provided by National Academy of Sciences. Note: Materials may be edited for content and length.


Cite This Page:

National Academy of Sciences. "EPA's Stormwater Program Needs Significant Overhaul." ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 31 October 2008. <www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081015120736.htm>.
National Academy of Sciences. (2008, October 31). EPA's Stormwater Program Needs Significant Overhaul. ScienceDaily. Retrieved October 25, 2014 from www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081015120736.htm
National Academy of Sciences. "EPA's Stormwater Program Needs Significant Overhaul." ScienceDaily. www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2008/10/081015120736.htm (accessed October 25, 2014).

Share This



More Earth & Climate News

Saturday, October 25, 2014

Featured Research

from universities, journals, and other organizations


Featured Videos

from AP, Reuters, AFP, and other news services

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

EU Gets Climate Deal, UK PM Gets Knock

Reuters - Business Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) EU leaders achieve a show of unity by striking a compromise deal on carbon emissions. But David Cameron's bid to push back EU budget contributions gets a slap in the face as the European Commission demands an extra 2bn euros. David Pollard reports. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Deep Sea 'mushroom' Could Be Early Branch on Tree of Life

Reuters - Innovations Video Online (Oct. 24, 2014) Miniature deep sea animals discovered off the Australian coast almost three decades ago are puzzling scientists, who say the organisms have proved impossible to categorise. Academics at the Natural History of Denmark have appealed to the world scientific community for help, saying that further information on Dendrogramma enigmatica and Dendrogramma discoides could answer key evolutionary questions. Jim Drury has more. Video provided by Reuters
Powered by NewsLook.com
Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

Raw: Tornado Rips Roofs in Washington State

AP (Oct. 24, 2014) A rare tornado ripped roofs off buildings, uprooted trees and shattered windows Thursday afternoon in the southwest Washington city of Longview, but there were no reports of injuries. (Oct. 24) Video provided by AP
Powered by NewsLook.com
Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Fast-Moving Lava Headed For Town On Hawaii's Big Island

Newsy (Oct. 24, 2014) Lava from the Kilauea volcano on Hawaii's Big Island has accelerated as it travels toward a town called Pahoa. Video provided by Newsy
Powered by NewsLook.com

Search ScienceDaily

Number of stories in archives: 140,361

Find with keyword(s):
Enter a keyword or phrase to search ScienceDaily for related topics and research stories.

Save/Print:
Share:

Breaking News:

Strange & Offbeat Stories


Plants & Animals

Earth & Climate

Fossils & Ruins

In Other News

... from NewsDaily.com

Science News

Health News

Environment News

Technology News



Save/Print:
Share:

Free Subscriptions


Get the latest science news with ScienceDaily's free email newsletters, updated daily and weekly. Or view hourly updated newsfeeds in your RSS reader:

Get Social & Mobile


Keep up to date with the latest news from ScienceDaily via social networks and mobile apps:

Have Feedback?


Tell us what you think of ScienceDaily -- we welcome both positive and negative comments. Have any problems using the site? Questions?
Mobile: iPhone Android Web
Follow: Facebook Twitter Google+
Subscribe: RSS Feeds Email Newsletters
Latest Headlines Health & Medicine Mind & Brain Space & Time Matter & Energy Computers & Math Plants & Animals Earth & Climate Fossils & Ruins