EVOLUTION OF WATERSHED MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES

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1 EVOLUTION OF WATERSHED MANAGEMENT STRATEGIES ABSTRACT Preparing for the next wave of Regulatory Compliance Ronald A. Geiger, P.E. HDR Engineering Inc. of the Carolinas North Carolina AWWA- WEA Annual Conference Over the 40 years that the Clean Water Act has been in existence, communities and utility agencies have worked to balance the needs of serving growing populations, supporting economic development, and meeting local and federal regulations. As the industry of professionals and regulators have increased their body of knowledge, a shift in dealing with competing needs and interest on a case-by-case or point-ofinterest basis has evolved to watershed management. Recently the body of knowledge has begun to consider an integrated strategy that crosses over decades of institutional and politically influenced boundaries. This presentation will focus on how the last twenty years of watershed management is and will continue to evolve to a more integrated watershed management strategy meeting the needs of communities and those who regulate sustainable healthy waters. Storm Water programs in the 1980s began to emerge as a result of EPA s NPDES Phase I initiatives. Watershed management began with understanding the extent of the urban drainage systems, responding to flood control issues, and collecting information on water quality health. Through the development of NPDES Phase II permits, more emphasis has been given to water quality degradation and the community s role in reversing the decay that has continued to be observed well after point-source pollution has been heavily regulated (focusing on water and wastewater facilities). Case studies will be presented to illustrate the evolution of traditional storm water master plans to integrated watershed studies that will soon become more relevant (incorporating point and non-point sources, urban and rural land use, and storm water and wastewater contributions). Factors that will be critical to the success of future integrated watershed management strategies include: Striking a balance between watershed water quality goals and regulatory compliance with the pressures of flood control and protection of private property from extreme rain events. Development of a cost-effective strategy to address TMDLs that hold communities more accountable for achieving waste load allocation targets. Working across utility jurisdictional boundaries to create an approach to address all sources of water quality degradation. KEYWORDS NPDES, Phase I, Phase II, MS4, TMDL, Integrated Water Planning Introduction The Federal Water Pollution Control Act was initiated in 1948 and ratified in 1972 as the Clean Water Act (CWA). This regulation focused on cleaning up our rivers and streams from the pollution generated by the industrial revolution. 3 The CWA initially targeted point-source pollution, e.g., elements of an urbanized landscape that were the low hanging fruit of our infrastructure development. Thus began the push for developing water and wastewater treatment facilities and distribution and collection systems that support

2 the treatment, produce safe and reliable drinking water, and treat wastewater discharges prior to entering state waters. Under the CWA, the EPA implemented pollution control programs such as setting wastewater standards for industry and water quality standards for all contaminants in surface waters. The CWA made it unlawful to discharge any pollutant from a point source into navigable waters unless a permit was obtained. EPA's National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program controls discharges. Point sources are discrete conveyances such as pipes or man-made ditches. Individual homes that are connected to a municipal system, use a septic system, or do not have a surface discharge do not need an NPDES permit; however, industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters. 4 The federal government provided funding assistance for the planning, design, and construction of treatment plants. Point source reduction certainly improved stream water quality; however, most streams remained impaired with water quality levels below their designated minimum use standards. In 1987, the EPA amended the CWA to include non-point source pollution controls. The 1987 amendments to the CWA established the Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Program. Section 319 addresses the need for greater federal leadership to help focus state and local nonpoint source reduction efforts. Figure 1 illustrates the timeline of the CWA evolution from a point-source focus to also include non-point source pollution and the further development of tighter rules. Nonpoint water pollution sources include leakage from underground storage tanks, urban storm water runoff, atmospheric deposition of contaminants, and golf course, agricultural, and forestry runoff. Nonpoint sources are the most significant single source of water pollution in the United States, accounting for almost half of all water pollution; and agricultural runoff is the single largest source of nonpoint source water pollution. Nonpoint water pollution has a number of detrimental effects on human health and the environment. Unlike point source pollution, nonpoint source pollution arises from numerous and diverse sources, making identification, monitoring, and regulation more complex. 3 In 1990, EPA began to target municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4). Phase I of the program required medium and large cities or certain counties with populations over 100,000 to obtain NPDES permit coverage for their stormwater discharges. There are approximately 750 Phase I MS4s throughout the United States. Phase II of the program, issued in 1999, requires regulated small MS4s in urbanized areas, as well as small MS4s outside the urbanized areas that are designated by the permitting authority, to obtain NPDES permit coverage for their stormwater discharges. There are approximately 6,700 Phase II MS4s (over 100 are in North Carolina). Generally, Phase I MS4s are covered by individual permits and Phase II MS4s are covered by a general permit. Each regulated MS4 is required to develop and implement a stormwater management program (SWMP) to reduce the contamination of stormwater runoff and prohibit illicit discharges. Since 1999, Phase I and II MS4 permits have tightened, EPA has promoted numerical effluent limits, and in 2014 plans to issue an updated National Stormwater Rule. Communities work hard to meet the intent of the CWA under a number of separate regulatory programs (such watershed protection rules, river basin nutrient rules, land development ordinances, etc.). This fragmented approach means that closelyrelated issues are often tackled separately, leading to inefficiencies and overlap of utility missions, added expense for the community, and a tangled web of interaction with regulators. Regulatory silos have developed within utility agencies and municipalities, inadvertently isolating compliance costs within municipal divisions, districts or utilities and complicating efforts to address the most critical needs for public health and environmental protection.

3 Master Planning in the Early Days Section 201 and 208 of the CWA was developed for the purpose of encouraging and facilitating the development and implementation of area-wide waste treatment management plans. These were the early stages of watershed management plans or master plans as they are more commonly called. 201 or 208 Facility Plans (Figure 2) addressed many of the following key areas: 1. Service area defining the current and future extent of sewer collection, delineating sewersheds for gravity sewers and force main/pump station service 2. Data Collection mapping the existing sewer system and its condition 3. Demand projections examining land use and development trends to predict population and industry use for creation of wastewater flows for the service area 4. Deficiency Analysis determining capacity limitations, and service life limitations 5. Alternative Investigation options to resolve deficiencies as well as expand service 6. Recommended Plan Capital Improvement Plans (CIP) to create a long-term strategy for project implementation 7. Funding Plan assessment of revenue requirements to fund the CIP The origin of storm water master planning grew out of the need to address complaints regarding private property flooding, impacts to infrastructure downstream of developments (such as road crossings), and the general natural consequences of urban development slowly encroaching on natural floodplains and changing landuse and subsequently the quantity of stormwater runoff. Storm water master planning typically addressed the following key areas: a. Service area defining watersheds and the extent of each watershed in the jurisdiction for control of runoff b. Data Collection mapping the existing storm drainage infrastructure (i.e. pipes, inlets, natural and man-made channels) and its condition c. Level of Service(Protection) could vary, with a focus on frequency of flooding allowed prior to impact to property and/or pubic infrastructure d. Complaint driven vs. holistic approach communities may have different drivers that dictate a focus on what is studied e. Demand projections (Hydrology Analysis) estimating runoff potential based on current land use and future projections of development. This will involve different storm frequencies for different levels of protection within the service area f. Deficiency Analysis (Hydraulic Analysis) understanding shortfalls in runoff conveyance g. Alternative Investigation options to resolve deficiencies in conveyance and/or structural condition h. Recommended Plan CIP to create a long-term strategy for project implementation. Some communities desire to identify all deficiencies and therefore solutions to address all problems, while others focus on priority areas within a prescribed spending plan i. Funding Plan assessment of revenue requirements to fund the CIP Evolution of Stormwater Master Planning and the Tools of the Trade Watershed management with an emphasis on storm water management has evolved as the power of personal computers has increased and as the body of knowledge of rainfall and rainfall runoff has broadened. Computer modeling software has blossomed to allow engineers the ability to better detail and asses the dynamic nature of storm water runoff. Gone are the days of using the Rational Method that gave only an understanding of peak rate of runoff. Analysis has turned to examining the dynamic change in rate and volume of runoff and the associated water surface created by rate of rainfall, runoff, restrictions in the pipes/channels carrying the runoff, and the energy established by the runoff (using Hydraulic Grade Line, HGL, and analysis). Dynamic modeling

4 evolved when we understood that the timing of the runoff from the land from multiple directions can influence the downstream flow and HGL. The most recent advances in analysis have included using longterm rainfall data for continuous simulation of rainfall and therefore runoff. This aids in understanding the timing of flooding, and the length of time that flooding occurs. Recent dynamic modeling has integrated two-dimensional and three-dimensional perspectives, which can predict time-dependent overland flow and the depth of the flow across the property. Figure 3 illustrates an example from a dynamic 2D modeling analysis that routed a storm event across a digital terrain surface creating overland flow and surcharging out of the underground pipe network. In addition to model development improving, decisions related to the engineering analysis have improved. One of the key areas of a successful master plan is the decision making that must take place with regards to the level of protection, the areas to protect, prioritizing what projects get implemented, and the funding levels for implementation. Decisions must be made on what the storm water program will target for protection and to what frequency of storm event. Initially communities wanted to focus on the public infrastructure for which they are responsible (i.e. roads, municipal property, government buildings). It is also desired to prevent public infrastructure from creating adverse impacts to private property (through improper sizing of culverts and storm drainage systems). Because many Storm Water programs are funded through utilities that create user fees, the public is demanding more from these programs, and thereby bringing programs onto private properties to solve issues that were previously deemed a private local drainage matter. Knowing where to draw the line, between a city problem and a private property problem, is expanding many programs beyond their original mission. Some communities operate and maintain only the drainage system within the public right-of-way, while others will operate and maintain outside the right-of-way if it carries runoff from the right-of-way (as long as the property owner grants easements for the work). Project prioritization varies from city to city. Deciding on which CIP to construct, as well as implementation schedule can range greatly. For example three NC cities used different approaches according to their goals and budget. 1. Winston Salem desired to know where all the deficiencies are located and a respective prioritization. In addition, when a building/structure was involved, a benefit/cost ratio was developed. This works well to achieve the city s goal of knowing where all the problems are and a conceptual engineering solution is developed. See Figure Concord on the other hand has taken the approach. They limited the geographical extent of the watershed study, which produced priority areas to investigate and therefore created priority CIP projects. See Figure Charlotte used an approach driven by property owner complaints and a comprehensive assessment of public roads and culvert crossings meeting current design criteria, as well as a goal to protect structures to the 100-year storm event. These different approaches produced a different list of CIP initiatives; the master planning cost varied greatly. The latest significant development in storm water watershed management is the integration of water quality strategies and flood control solutions. With storm water programs evolving with the advent of the MS4 permits, storm water programs must balance between meeting the needs of the public (who still focus on flood control), with permit compliance (driven by regulations) that focuses on improving the health of the streams. Winston Salem is an example of a master planning process moving to meet both needs. Pollutant loads for each of its 15 watersheds have historically been developed, along with bioassessments of the streams to understand aquatic and biological health trends. With TMDL conditions recently identified in their MS4 permit and pending additional river basin nutrient rules, the City has embarked on additional analysis of candidate sites for water quality treatment (either new facilities or retrofits of flood control facilities). They are also examining the potential for pollutant reduction at these sites, and including the findings within the delivery of the watershed master plan, transitioning their H&H modeling to include water quality modeling for development of a watershed water quality strategy (which aids in addressing TMDLs).

5 Future of Watershed Management Regulatory requirements for Stormwater Management and Separate Sanitary Sewers often create competing interests and may not always lead to the best investment. How do we decide what the next infrastructure investment should be and how do we prioritize these investments with limited financial resources? What obstacles exist in developing a program initiative for one utility that relies on another utility to change its priorities? One way is through what EPA is calling an Integrated Water Planning framework. 2 Under the EPA s new Integrated Water Planning framework, water resource protection problems are examined holistically and projects can be planned so that the highest-priority, most environmentally-beneficial projects are tackled first while deadlines for compliance with less beneficial projects are extended. 1 An integrated plan looks beyond NPDES obligations and examines the benefit of actions to address Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs); Capacity, Management, Operations, and Maintenance (CMOM); Publicly Owned Treatment Works (POTWs), and MS4s. The EPA s Integrated Planning Framework looks at the following elements: a. Identify water quality, human health, and regulatory issues b. Describe existing wastewater and storm water systems c. Create a process for stakeholder involvement d. Develop a process for screening alternative solutions e. Develop a means to measure the success of the plan The framework allows municipalities to gather watershed-specific concerns and technical information through a collaborative planning process with the public. As long as regulatory standards are met, competing interests are brought into a uniform approach for managing the watershed. 1 The arguments for integrated watershed planning are many, but here are just a few: It will clarify the regulatory drivers that are blurring the lines on permitting accountability It will aid in prioritizing project funding across utilities Public does not see the silos by the different enterprise utilities, and so responding to the public should not be hampered by the silos that exist Streams and Rivers need to be managed holistically, and not through the silos of current culture This strategy will create synergistic management and operational benefits with asset management integration One example for considering an integrated planning effort involves addressing TMDL compliance of a bacteria-based TMDL. Many communities with any age on their infrastructure are experiencing degradation of their receiving streams and are finding high levels of bacteria. Fecal TMDLs are showing up in developed cities/counties throughout the country. As MS4 permits are modified to include TMDL Implementation Plans (TIPs) as an additional compliance measure, it will become obvious upon study of pollutant source tracking that significant contribution will be from leaking sewer collection systems, unreported overflows, and poorly maintained private sewer systems (i.e., septic and package plants). None of these issues have jurisdictional authority from within a storm water program, yet may be the key to successfully complying with a TMDL wasteload reduction goal. Key to a successful TIP will be the collaborative efforts of the storm water and wastewater utilities to identify the most cost-effective strategies as well as the strategies that achieve the most pollutant reduction. This collaborative effort may require the sewer utility to allocate funds to aid the TIP, or change its program priorities to address SSOs in the targeted watershed. While traditionally the MS4 will be accountable for compliance with the TIP, it needs to rely on others in order to contemplate achieving compliance.

6 Challenges to Integrated Watershed Planning do exist, and may take considerable time to achieve full integrated planning, such as the following: The current culture within each utility organization may be too established that leadership will resist change. There can be inconsistencies in the jurisdictions that the utilities provide service in and therefore have authority to enact management and operational policies. Traditionally stormwater service areas stop at the city limits, while water/sewer agencies can routinely go beyond city limits to serve customers. Financial limitations may exist as each utility operates as an enterprise fund, with different bonding requirements. Since the inception of EPA s introduction of this integrated water planning strategy, more communities are considering an integrated approach. When EPA introduced this concept in October 2011, the reaction was luke warm by the local governments. Since then, a few communities are evaluating if not implementing this new planning approach. Two such communities are listed below: Milwaukee Metropolitan Sewerage District (Milwaukee, WI) in response to public demand for more healthy ecosystem 1 Billings, MO initial catalyst was the state s implementation of a new water quality standard Conclusions Change is inevitable. The political landscape changes every two or four years, which can shift the perspective on environmental stewardship and environmental sustainability. Regulations are effected by this change, as well as the general public s opinion of what is important to the quality of life as more and more people inhabit the limited livable space we have and our means to protect our receiving waters don t adapt to a sustainable culture. These changes in the regulations are trending to focus on more holistic accountability, and they search out a surrogate agent in responsible charge (most recently with MS4 permits for TMDL compliance). Utilities are looking for ways toward effective asset management, with limited funding sources. New strategies are being considered for efficiencies, and for sharing the burden of compliance and maintenance of an aging infrastructure. The Water Utilities are seeing opportunities through collaboration to meet these needs. However, past organizational culture is resisting any quick change in management philosophy or program/project prioritization. The driver that changes any municipal utility organization will vary on the circumstances, but change will come when all parties can see the win-win scenario that has been broadcast through an integrated watershed management approach. References 1. APWA Reporter, February 2013 Issue. 2. USEPA Report, Integrated Planning Framework, USEPA Website usepa.org. 4. USEPA National Water Quality Inventory: Report to Congress: 2002 Reporting Cycle. Document No. EPA-841-R

7 Figure 1: EPA Clean Water Act Timeline

8 Figure 2: Sample 201 Facilities Plan Figure 3: Map from 2D Dynamic Model Analysis

9 Figure 4: Master Plan Illustrating Comprehensive Approach to CIP Figure 5: Master Plan Illustrating Prioritized Approach to CIP