Rapid growth in Utah has led to increased urbanization and the conversion of undeveloped land to impervious surfaces such as roads, parking lots, rooftops, and driveways. This change in land use has resulted in an increase in the volume of stormwater runoff. Rainwater and snowmelt water used to percolate into the soil. Now, it runs off impervious surfaces, picking up contaminants such as nutrients, metals, petroleum products, and sediment and discharging them largely untreated into state water bodies. Improving the management of the quality of stormwater generated by increasing development continues to be a major initiative for DWQ.
Storm Water Discharge Permits
Stormwater discharges are regulated through the Utah Pollutant Discharge Elimination System, Utah’s version of the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), the permit mandated by the Clean Water Act to control pollutants from entering the waters of the state. The UPDES program regulates discharges from industry, construction sites, and municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s). Over the past several years, Utah’s stormwater universe has grown to over 4,300 permits.
DWQ recently undertook the following initiatives to manage the administration, enforcement, education, and outreach associated with these permits more efficiently:
- Online permitting for stormwater general permits to ensure permits are processed in an efficient and timely manner. Hours spent processing permits have dropped dramatically since the online permitting system began in 2011.
- Monthly Utah Storm Water Advisory Coalition meetings held between permittees, consultants, DWQ staff, and other stakeholders to discuss permit implementation.
The volume of stormwater runoff discharged to and transported by municipal storm drain systems is one of the main causes of water-quality degradation in urban areas. To reduce the volume of stormwater discharged to drainage systems, and ultimately the state’s waterbodies, DWQ has adopted a stormwater retention standard in its MS4 Permit. This standard requires management of the portion of stormwater on site that is equal to the 90thpercentile storm event.
This permit requirement will be accomplished through the use of Low Impact Development (LID) practices that are designed, constructed, and maintained to infiltrate, evapotranspire, and/or harvest and reuse rainwater. Examples of LID Best Management Practices (BMPs) include site design practices that minimize impervious surfaces and retain vegetation, bioretention swales or raingardens, green roofs, permeable pavement surfaces, and rainwater harvesting and reuse.
To facilitate the adoption of the permit retention standard by the March 1, 2019, implementation date, DWQ has:
- Formed a Long-Term Stormwater Management Work Group made up of contractors, developers, MS4 representatives, DWQ staff, and consultants to discuss stormwater management in accordance with the standard as well as opportunities and obstacles to implementation.
- Developed a Scope of Work for an LID Design Manual. The manual will aid MS4s and the development community with selecting LID BMPs for specific site conditions.
- Made available low-cost and no-cost funding for water-quality improvement projects that incorporate an LID approach through the State Revolving Loan Fund (SRF) and Nonpoint Source (NPS) funding. DWQ is currently requesting LID projects from its partners and plans to distribute $1 million for construction of innovative stormwater projects that will improve the quality of the state’s waters.
Expedited Settlement Offer (ESO)
DWQ’s current deterrent for noncompliance is a formal enforcement process that involves the issuance of a notice of violation, opportunities for review and appeal, and the possibility of a monetary penalty in a negotiated settlement agreement. The process can be very time-consuming and may delay compliance during the negotiation process.
The expedited settlement offer (ESO) provides an efficient, real-time enforcement mechanism in situations where violations of the Utah Water Quality Act do not pose an immediate or significant threat to human health and/or the environment and can be corrected quickly. The ESO supplements DWQ’s traditional enforcement process. Violators are not compelled to sign an ESO. If they decline, DWQ will pursue resolution through its traditional enforcement process. ESO penalties are designed to be about 40 percent less than a penalty determined through the traditional enforcement process.