A Timeline of Recent Stormwater Regulatory Policies

The earliest law to address water quality in the United States was the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1948, which in 1972 was amended and became known as the Clean Water Act (CWA). The CWA is the primary law governing stormwater, but it is complimented, or some may argue, complicated, by various state and local laws that have also been enacted in more recent years, often with more stringent regulatory requirements. The following timeline provides an overview of some of the more recent developments in stormwater policy that may affect your business. For additional information, we invite you to contact us, and to follow our blog for updates to this timeline, and our other useful resources.

Stormwater Regulatory Policies

2015
Clean Water Rule or Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule passed by EPA and the United States Army Corps of Engineers

Clean Water Rule or Waters of the US (WOTUS) rule passed by EPA and the United States Army Corps of Engineers

Federal Policy/Regulation

Expands the Clean Water Act (CWA) to include wetlands, smaller ephemeral streams, including compliance for discharges into dry streams, thereby increasing stormwater compliance exposure.

2015
Industrial Permit Requires Certified Registered Professional (QISP) to Implement the Permit

Industrial Permit requires Qualified Industrial Stormwater Practitioner (QISP) for permit implementation

California Policy/Regulation

Only QISP certified stormwater professionals can perform Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP) functions, requiring additional expertise to implement permits.

2017
President Trump issues Executive Order to roll back WOTUS rule issued in 2015

President Trump issues Executive Order to roll back WOTUS rule issued in 2015

Federal Policy/Regulation

Reversion to narrower definition of which water bodies are regulated under the CWA, primarily impacting the industry and farming communities.

2018
Addition of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) into the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits by the California State Water Resources Control Board

Addition of Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) into the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits by the California State Water Resources Control Board

California Policy/Regulation

NPDES Permits include numerical limits and exceedances carry financial penalties. Clients must install best management practices (BMPs) to ensure discharges are not exceeding limits.

2020
Maui Case: Point source discharge to a jurisdictional water through groundwater

Maui Case: Point source discharge to a jurisdictional water through groundwater

Federal Policy/Regulation

The case asked whether the CWA requires a permit when pollutants that originate from a non-point source can be traced to reach navigable waters through mechanisms such as groundwater transport. The ruling by the US Supreme Court that non-point source discharges do require a permit when they are equivalent to direct discharges increases compliance exposure for infiltration BMPs, establishing connectivity between stormwater and groundwater. Those who discharge must ensure no direct or indirect connection to a surface water via groundwater.

2021
Corona Clay case ruling expands of citizens ability to sue for violations of CWA

Corona Clay case ruling expands of citizens ability to sue for violations of CWA

California Policy/Regulation

Similar to the Maui Case, the ruling by California’s 9th Circuit Court of Appeals held that previously occurring CWA violations could be brought to suit by private citizens increasing risk of litigation for ongoing or historical discharges.

2021
Biden Administration Executive Order: Reinstates 2015 USACOE broad definition of WOTUS

Biden Administration Executive Order: Reinstates 2015 USACOE broad definition of WOTUS

Federal Policy/Regulation

Biden’s reinstatement of the 2015 WOTUS rule expands the definition of a waterbody under the CWA to include smaller ephemeral streams, and requires compliance for discharges into dry streams and dry ditches.

2021
Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) revised and updated to include Universal Benchmark Monitoring, public signage, and technology‑based effluent limits

Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP) revised and updated to include universal benchmark monitoring, public signage, and technology‑based effluent limits

Federal Policy/Regulation

The MSGP is beginning to look more like the California Industrial General Permit (IGP). Those outside of California who are covered under the MSGP or other state permits will be required to implement more BMPs, monitoring, and actions. State permits cannot be less stringent than the federal MSGP.

2021
Voters approve “Measure W”, which created a special parcel tax in the Los Angeles County Flood Control District (LACFCD) to fund stormwater Capture and Reuse Projects

Voters approve “Measure W,” which created a special parcel tax in the Los Angeles County Flood Control District (LACFCD) to fund stormwater capture and reuse projects

California Policy/Regulation

This measure is the first large-scale stormwater fee system to capture and reuse stormwater in the west. Businesses can seek parcel tax reductions, engineer infiltration features, or reuse stormwater to reduce parcel taxes.

Apex Associated Press (Apex AP) represents contributions from various authors within the Apex professional community.

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