Integrated Planning for Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater
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.
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.
- Public Outreach for Integrated Wastewater and Stormwater Planning – This report focuses on the essential element of public outreach in the integrated planning process. Includes case studies from Burlington, Vermont and Onondaga County, New York.
- Prioritizing Wastewater and Stormwater Projects Using Stakeholder Input – This report describes how communities can use stakeholder input to select and rank criteria and apply those criteria to prioritize stormwater and wastewater projects. Includes case studies from Burlington, Vermont, Onondaga County, New York, and Santa Maria, California.
- Using Stakeholder Input to Evaluate and Rank Alternatives (EXCEL)(77 K) - This spreadsheet tool can be used by communities to evaluate and rank project alternatives based on community-defined goals and priorities.
- Integrated Planning: Characterizing the Value of Water to Inform Decision-Making – This document presents approaches for quantifying water resource users and estimating the value of water resources. Icludes examples from the City of Springfield and Green County, Missouri. Two separate documents provide details on the work in Springfield–Green County:
- Estimating the Value of Water: A Literature Review – This document describes the methodology and results of a literature review of relevant studies that examined how communities similar to Springfield estimated their water resource value.
- Estimating Users of Water Resources: Springfield–Greene County Data Collection Plan – This data collection plan provides next steps for the Springfield and Green County project partners and ideas for other communities on how to collect water resource user data to help support an integrated planning process.
- Integrated Planning: Characterizing the Value of Water to Inform Decision-Making
- Prioritizing Wastewater and Stormwater Projects Using Stakeholder Input
- Public Outreach for Integrated Wastewater and Stormwater Planning
- Using Stakeholder Input to Evaluate and Rank Alternatives (EXCEL)(77 K)
- Memorandum: Achieving Water Quality Through Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Plans
- Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework – Provides guidance for EPA, states, and local governments to develop and implement effective integrated plans under the CWA. This framework was finalized after extensive public input including a series of workshops across the country.
- Combined Sewer Overflows - Guidance for Financial Capability Assessment and Schedule Development (FCA Guidance) – Provides an aid for assessing financial capability as part of negotiating schedules for CWA requirements for municipalities and local authorities.
- Financial Capability Assessment Framework – Provides greater clarify on the flexibilities built into the FCA guidance that local governments or authorities can use in assessing their financial capability.
- Integrated Planning Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) – EPA has developed responses to FAQs about the integrated planning process.