Stormwater Management

About Stormwater

Charles River, Boston. Courtesy of Rowland WilliamsStormwater is the natural result of rain storms and other wet weather events. Normally, it flows into the ground or to surface waters allowing for recharge and filtering. However, as more of the landscape is covered with impervious surfaces that prevent these processes, stormwater has become an issue that increasingly affects people’s lives and the environment

If stormwater is not directed to natural or man-made facilities designed to treat it, water quality can be adversely impacted by chemical and biological materials. For example, oils, pesticides and animal waste can be picked up by water flowing across developed sites and deposited into nearby water bodies.

Due to these potential impacts, stormwater has come under more scrutiny and regulation. In particular, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has advanced the Stormwater Permitting Program through its National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) to mitigate these impacts. The program has set a series of regulatory requirements for stormwater which first applied to large cities and then to smaller cities and towns. The specific application of this program is the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) general permit.

Stormwater Management

Courtesy of Charles MulcaheyStormwater management is a growing challenge for local governments, and new requirements under the EPA’s MS4 general permit may make it necessary for towns to advance their Stormwater Master Plan. This may involve:

  • Meeting new phosphorous Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Waste Load Allocations (WLA)
  • Programming more frequent public education events
  • Completing mapping of sewer systems

Additional steps could be necessary to coordinate municipal activities with actions major land users may need to take in response to the proposed phosphorous reduction requirements.


A strong public education program is critical for the public to understand their stormwater contribution and impacts to their community environment. Most residents and property owners are likely unaware of the increasing costs and regulatory requirements of stormwater management and the options to fund it. Public engagement and outreach should communicate how a well-funded and managed stormwater program can help reduce flooding, improve drought conditions, create better circumstances for fishing and water recreation, and improve water quality. While there will be expected resistance to a new fee, demonstration of how a utility will directly support necessary services and benefit the community is essential.

Additional Resources