EPA Develops Planning Approach To Improve Water Quality In Cities

December 2011, Vol. 66 No. 12

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has announced a commitment to using an integrated planning process to help local governments dealing with difficult financial conditions identify opportunities to achieve clean water by controlling and managing releases of wastewater and stormwater runoff more efficiently and cost effectively.

The integrated planning process, outlined in a guidance memo to EPA’s regional offices from EPA’s Office of Water and Office of Enforcement and Compliance, will help municipalities prioritize infrastructure investments to address the most serious water quality issues and provide flexibility to use innovative, cost-effective stormwater and wastewater management solutions.

To better protect water quality, EPA will work with local governments to review the Clean Water Act requirements that each municipality must comply with and look for opportunities to improve the efficiency and effectiveness of solutions developed to meet those obligations. This integrated approach will identify efficiencies where more than one water quality issue can be addressed by the same solution and where competing requirements may exist, including how to best make capital investments and meet operation and maintenance requirements.

Integrated planning approaches can also have other benefits, like leading to the identification of innovative, sustainable solutions that improve water quality and enhance community vitality. Green infrastructure, such as green roofs, rain gardens, planter boxes and permeable pavement, is an example of an integrated solution that can reduce, capture, and treat stormwater runoff at its source before it can reach the sewer system. Green infrastructure provides a cost effective way to reduce overflows and add green space in communities.