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National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)

Integrated Planning for Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater

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Over the past 45 years, EPA, states, and municipalities have made significant progress protecting public health and the environment through implementation of the Clean Water Act (CWA). However, protecting our waters today has become more challenging. EPA, states, and municipalities faced with stressors, such as population growth, aging infrastructure, limited resources, and increasingly complex water quality issues, seek new approaches to address CWA requirements.

Currently, municipalities often focus on each CWA requirement individually. This may not be the best way to address these stressors and may have the unintended consequence of constraining a municipality from addressing its most serious water quality issues first.

Recognizing the limits of this approach, EPA developed an integrated planning approach that offers a voluntary opportunity for a municipality to propose to meet multiple CWA requirements by identifying efficiencies from separate wastewater and stormwater programs and sequencing investments so that the highest priority projects come first. This approach can also lead to more sustainable and comprehensive solutions, such as green infrastructure, that improve water quality and provide multiple benefits that enhance community vitality.

The integrated planning approach is not about changing existing regulatory or permitting standards or delaying necessary improvements. It is an option to help municipalities meet their CWA obligations while optimizing their infrastructure investments through the appropriate sequencing of work.

The documents under the Resources section below discuss the main elements of the integrated planning framework including:

  • how to incorporate state and CWA standards and requirements,
  • funding and financial strategies, and
  • technology and community input and involvement.

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Technical Assistance

EPA provided $335,000 in technical assistance to five communities to develop elements of integrated plans for municipal wastewater and stormwater management:

  • Burlington, Vermont – The city of Burlington developed community-based evaluation criteria based on social, economic, and environmental factors to identify and prioritize potential wastewater, stormwater, and combined sewer system projects.
  • Durham, New Hampshire – The town of Durham and the University of New Hampshire developed an integrated plan using information on pollution tracking and accounting systems to focus on cross-jurisdictional coordination and methods to credit point versus nonpoint pollution controls.
  • Onondaga County, New York – The Onondaga County Department of Water Environment Protection worked with multiple municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) and other stakeholders, developed priorities, and evaluated proposed wastewater and stormwater projects.
  • Santa Maria, California – The city of Santa Maria developed methods to identify, evaluate, and select water resource management projects that address multiple wastewater, stormwater, and other water quality issues.
  • Springfield, Missouri – The city of Springfield, Greene County, and City Utilities of Springfield developed a benefits analysis of water resources to use for integrated planning.

In addition to supporting these community planning efforts, the projects resulted in three reports that provide practical examples and transferable tools to communities that are interested in integrated planning. The reports and related supporting documents focus on three main themes: public outreach and engagement, prioritizing projects, and characterizing the value of water to inform decision-making.

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