The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is promoting the use of integrated planning to allow local governments to balance compliance requirements for Clean Water Act (CWA) obligations for stormwater and wastewater. EPA released a memo, ‘Achieving Water Quality through Integrated Stormwater and Wastewater Plans,’ in October 2011 describing the initiative and the motivation for the new approach. According to EPA, localities can use the integrated planning process to “identify a prioritized critical path to achieving the water quality objectives of the CWA by identifying efficiencies in implementing overlapping and competing requirements that arise from separate wastewater and stormwater projects.”
In January 2012, EPA released a Draft Framework that identifies the operating principles and essential elements of an integrated plan. Five workshops were held in February to gather stakeholder feedback on the Framework. HRPDC staff attended the final workshop on February 17, 2012 in order to gain further insight into EPA’s approach. EPA plans to release a final Framework by the end of March 2012. They are soliciting case studies from local governments who have already experienced the benefits of integrated planning.
Additional information is available on EPA’s website.
Localities in Hampton Roads face two expensive compliance programs related to water quality. Wastewater systems are under a Special Order of Consent with Virginia’s Department of Environmental Quality to reduce the occurrence of sanitary sewer overflows. The Chesapeake Bay TMDL requires significant reductions in nutrients from stormwater and wastewater. Currently these regulatory actions have separate priorities and schedules and compliance plans are being developed by different State agencies. Compliance with the Consent Order and TMDL is predicted to double both stormwater and wastewater fees over the next 10-20 years. An integrated planning approach would allow local governments to look at stormwater and wastewater issues together and prioritize projects that have the greatest impact on improving water quality and/or impacting human health. This approach could result in cost savings to local governments and ratepayers. HRPDC is investigating how local governments in Hampton Roads may be able to take advantage of this integrated planning approach.