The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has issued a new framework to help local governments meet their Clean Water Act obligations. The Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework is designed to help EPA regional offices, states, and local governments develop voluntary storm and wastewater management plans.
"Integrated planning will assist municipalities on their critical paths to achieving the human health and water quality objectives of the Clean Water Act by identifying efficiencies in implementing requirements that arise from distinct wastewater and storm water programs, including how to best prioritize capital investments," Nancy Stoner wrote in a letter to agency staff.
"Integrated planning can also facilitate the use of sustainable and comprehensive solutions, including green infrastructure, that protect human health, improve water quality, manage stormwater as a resource, and support other economic benefits and quality of life attributes that enhance the vitality of communities."
In developing the framework, the EPA worked with a variety of stakeholders, including publicly owned treatment works, state water permitting authorities, local governments, and nonprofit environmental groups.
The planning approach is voluntary. If a municipality decides to take advantage of this approach, the integrated plan should identify the municipality's relative priorities for projects and include a description of how the proposed priorities reflect the relative importance of adverse impacts on human health and water quality and the municipality's financial capability. The integrated plan will be the starting point for development of appropriate implementation actions, which may include requirements and schedules in enforceable documents.
The framework includes a certain flexibility that utilities can use to pursue innovative, cost-saving solutions, like green infrastructure, and will should help communities as they develop plans that prioritize their investments in storm and wastewater infrastructure.
The framework document is available on EPA's website, where the agency will also provide practical examples of how municipalities are implementing this approach, as they become available.
More information: http://cfpub.epa.gov/npdes/integratedplans.cfm