United States EPA Stormwater Rules should Acknowledge Benefits of Urbanism


Note to Readers:

The announcement of the United States federal interagency Partnership for Sustainable Communities was well received by the new urbanism and smart growth movements, which have been eager to assist with taking a more holistic view on how funding patterns and regulations shape our built environment.

As part of this effort, the Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) and its partners contacted the USEPA to discuss EPA Office of Water’s revision of the current National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). They urged the EPA to revise the stormwater regulations to make them complement broader environmental objectives.


Connecting the Dots to Watershed Health

John norquist (120p) - president and ceo, congress for the new urbanism“We believe that changing NPDES to allow and encourage more compact, walkable neighborhoods can help the USA become more resource efficient, economically productive, and improve the qualities of our rivers, streams, and watersheds,” writes John Norquist, president and CEO of the Congress for the New Urbanism, in a Guest Editorial published in the January-February issue of Stormwater Magazine.

“We acknowledge wide dissatisfaction with NPDES, which was developed for factories, not places. However, wholesale change could span years if not decades.”

The editorial offers suggestions for advancing an effort that best uses resources and existing structures, while making meaningful reforms.

“We know that it is the redevelopment of previously developed land that can lead to the net improvements in watershed health that we need. Redevelopment triggers restoration activities of our existing built environment,” emphasizes John Norquist.

“Watershed and sub-watershed analysis, integrated with regional planning and local regulations, should be at the heart of new stormwater regulations.”


View from British Columbia

“We are heartened by the efforts of the Congress for the New Urbanism in leading change south of the border. What has caught our attention is that they are connecting the dots to watershed health. Viewed from the perspective of cross-border alignment  of what we think and do, this is an exciting development,” observes Kim Stephens, Executive Director of the Partnership for Water Sustainability in British Columbia.

Kim stephens (120p) - 2011“In British Columbia, connecting the dots between land use and stream health has been our focus for some years now. In fact, this was the driver for integration of the web-based Water Balance Model decision support tool with the QUALHYMO hydrology engine. This enhanced tool enables analyses that integrate the site with the watershed and the stream.”

“At the heart of the Water Balance Model is a pragmatic Stream Health Methodology which picks up where others left off in the 1990s; and incorporates the understanding gained, and the lessons learned, from experience over the past decade. The Water Balance Model can create an understanding of the past and compare it to many possible futures,” says Kim Stephens.


To Learn More:

To download a complete copy of the Guest Editorial, click on EPA Stormwater Rules should Acknowledge Benefits of Urbanism

To read a story posted on the Water Bucket’s Green Infrastructure Community-of-Interest, click on Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) recommends changes to LEED-ND Stormwater Credit to protect watershed health The Rainwater-in-Context intiative urges modification because lot-level standards alone deliver lower overall performance than holistically-planned shared systems at the community or watershed scale.

To access stories about the Water Balance Model, click here



Before STORMWATER, The Journal for Surface Water Quality Professionals, there was no single publication written specifically for  the professional involved with surface water quality issues, protection, projects, and programs.


Congress for the New Urbanism

The Congress for the New Urbanism (CNU) is the leading organization promoting walkable, mixed-use neighborhood development, sustainable communities and healthier living conditions. CNU works to deliver these hallmarks to communities across North America and overseas on multiple scales. CNU’s Partners have included:

  • United States Department of Housing and Urban Development
  • United States Environmental Protection Agency
  • Institute of Transportation Engineers and the Federal Highway Administration

The principles of New Urbanism are also central to making whole regions more livable, coherent and sustainable. Settings where new urbanists are active include both emerging growth areas and brownfields, suburbs and small towns where New Urbanism can either reinforce the character of existing walkable areas or help to “retrofit” automobile-oriented malls and office parks to become walkable communities.


WBM screen shot

Posted January 2011