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Adopting a Stormwater Bylaw

A filled stormwater catch basin in the city of Boston.  The stormwater has nowhere to go, and so the streets flood and eventually drain into parks and waterways.

Stormwater Bylaw Resources

MAPC Introduction to Local Stormwater Bylaws

MAPC Stormwater Bylaws Toolkit

Stormwater Manager's Resource Center

DEP's stormwater regulation site

EPA's stormwater management site

NPDES National Menu of Stormwater Best Management Practices

Attend EPA NPDES training courses and workshops

Stormwater Bylaw Overview

All operators of small regulated storm drain systems, including municipalities and public agencies, and construction areas over 1 acre are required to have stormwater discharge permits under the NPDES Stormwater Phase II Permit Program, administered by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection (DEP).

Under NPDES Phase II, affected municipalities and/or agencies are required to reduce stormwater pollution entering their storm drain systems to the "maximum extent practicable". Each operator is required to develop and implement a stormwater management program that comprises six minimum control measures. These elements are expected to result in significant reductions of pollutants discharged into the Charles and other waterbodies. The six program elements are:

  1. Public education and outreach
  2. Public participation/ involvement
  3. Illicit discharge detection and elimination
  4. Construction site runoff controls
  5. Post-Construction runoff control
  6. Pollution prevention and good housekeeping

What is a stormwater bylaw and why should your town adopt one?

Bylaws are regulatory mechanisms adopted by municipal governments. Stormwater bylaws define the administration and enforcement of the six minimum control measures to facilitate compliance with NPDES Phase II requirements.

In Massachusetts, stormwater is currently regulated under both state (Massachusetts Wetlands Protection Act) and federal (NPDES) legislation. Stormwater bylaws can reduce confusion from overlapping and potentially conflicting regulations and create a single set of standards to regulate stormwater discharges.  Stormwater bylaws can also be used to promote environmentally sensitive development such as Low Impact Development (LID) techniques that both filter stormwater and promote local ground water recharge.          

While Phase II allows for the use of other local regulations such as ordinances to administer and enforce minimum control measures,  adopting municipal stormwater bylaws provides an effective and more commonly used framework to accomplish these objectives.

CRWA has compiled a list of useful links to promote the adoption of stormwater bylaws to help towns comply with federal NPDES Phase II regulations and most importantly, to improve ambient water quality.  The Metropolitan Area Planning Council website provides guidance to local communities on the adoption of local stormwater bylaws including several model bylaws.

Please encourage your municipal officials to endorse a stormwater bylaw warrant at the next town meeting!