STATE WATER BOARD: Stormwater strategy update

rain-puddle-patrick-fellerImplementation has begun on identifying barriers to stormwater capture and use, addressing urban pesticides, and identifying funding opportunities

Stormwater runoff occurs when precipitation from rain or snowmelt flows over the land surface. The addition of roads, driveways, parking lots, rooftops and other impervious surfaces to the urban landscapes prevent water from soaking into the ground and greatly increases the runoff volume created during storms.  In addition, as the water runs across the surface, it picks up and carries many different pollutants, such as sediment, nitrogen, phosphorus, bacteria, oil and grease, trash, pesticides and metals which is then carried to local waterways where it can cause flooding and erosion, as well as damage important habitats.

However, recent state legislation and increased awareness of storm water-related environmental challenges and opportunities have contributed to continuously-changing innovative approaches to storm water management and regulation.  Well-conceived stormwater management actions can provide multiple benefits, such as improving water quality, increasing water supply, providing more space for public recreation, and enhancing stream and riparian habitat area.  With population growth, climate change, and extended drought putting more pressure on water resources, the State Water Board and others have recognized the opportunity to redefine how California utilizes and values stormwater as a water resource.

In 2016, the State Water Board adopted the Strategy To Optimize Resource Management of Stormwater (or STORMS) to further develop innovative regulatory and management approaches to maximize opportunities to use storm water as a resource.  At the November 1st meeting of the State Water Board, water board staff updated the Board on the status of implementation of the strategy.

storms-1The stormwater strategy includes a vision where we look ahead to where stormwater sustainably managed and utilized in California, as well as a mission to lead the evolution of stormwater management in California by advancing the perspective that stormwater is a valuable resource,” began Storm Water Planning Unit Chief Annalisa Kihara.

Since approval of the strategy, the stormwater planning unit has moved forward with implementation of nine of the 23 total projects identified to achieve the vision and the mission; all projects are in various stages of implementation.

One of the projects underway is to identify barriers for stormwater capture and use.   A project advisory group meeting was held in October, which brought stakeholders together to discuss successful capture and use projects and the identification of barriers and potential solutions for capture and use, plus a request for any case studies.

storms-2Another project underway is to establish a framework for urban pesticide reduction.  Urban pesticides are important to address because the highest levels of toxic substances in urban waterways comes from pesticide use in the urban environment.  Three workgroups have been established and are in the process of drafting a regulatory coordination framework, model permit language for municipal permits, and a statewide monitoring coordination framework.  They are coordinating with the Department of Pesticide Regulation and the Environmental Protection Agency.  These will be part of a proposed plan amendment that will be brought to the board for consideration in the future.


The STORMS program has a webpage at the State Water Board website.  The website is designed to provide project-related updates, provide opportunities for feedback, and project specific pages.

You can access the webpage here:


  • Water board staff are working with EPA Region 9 to develop and hold a stormwater funding workshop in early 2017.
  • Water board staff are in the process of coordinating a CEQA scoping meeting for early 2017 for establishing a statewide framework for urban pesticide reduction.
  • The program has been hosting a STORMS seminar series to provide a platform to share new research, reports, and projects related to stormwater. Five seminars have been held so far; there is a sixth seminar scheduled for early December on low impact development.
  • Water board staff are working to coordinate a Clean Transportation, Clean Air, Clean Water, and Soil event, with the idea of showing the benefits of electric vehicles to the environment.


In addition to coordinating with other state programs and agencies in implementing the strategy, it is important to also collaborate with stakeholders, so the Core Implementation Committee was created as an external coordinating and advisory body to provide feedback and recommendations to water board staff and management.  The committee consists of Dawn Koepke with the California Council for Environmental and Economic Balance, Sean Bothwell with the California Coast Keeper’s Alliance, Adam Robin with the Association of California Water Agencies, and Geoff Brosseau with the California Stormwater Quality Association.

The committee meets quarterly.  One or more members is a champion of at least one of the phase 1 projects.  In addition, some members have provided resource support for implementation of some of the projects.

At the State Water Board meeting, the Core Implementation Committee members were on hand to give their comments on how the strategy is progressing.  All four spoke positively about the progress made so far.

Committee member Sean Bothwell discussed another project underway, which is looking at removing barriers to stormwater funding.  He noted that all four committee members felt this was important to work on and wanted to be champions of the project.  The committee is looking at three areas: Prop 218 funding, existing tools for funding, and promoting multi-benefit projects that bring in other possible funding sources, such as Cal Trans and their TMDL implementation fees.  A kickoff meeting was held recently; about 25 stakeholders showed up and wanted to participate, so an in-depth meeting is planned for early December.


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