What is the San Diego Regional Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit?

This post is the first in a series of three regarding the San Diego Regional Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) permit for the San Diego region.

storm_drainIn this entry, I give a brief overview of the permit’s purpose and permitting process. The second and third entries will highlight how you, dear reader, can get involved. My primary task this summer as a student attorney was evaluating the MS4 permit from the environmental perspective, spotting potential issues, and drafting comments to rehabilitate and increase protection of our natural resources.

As I’m sure you are aware, stormwater and urban runoff are key issues that have a very direct impact on the health of coastal waters. In a nutshell, this permit encompasses the rules for stormwater flows and urban runoff as well as regulations for what can enter storm drains and leave MS4 facilities. The version out right now is the pre-public draft of the permit. That means that key stakeholders (municipalities, environmental groups, and building industry) get to review the proposed permit first and work with the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board to recommend improvements.

This particular MS4 permit is special because it has been handled differently than previous ones. In the past, San Diego, Orange and Riverside Counties each had their own MS4 permit with slightly different requirements. This obviously complicates things for all parties involved because water does not recognize municipal boundaries. Having uniform requirements across the entire San Diego Region is an important step in working towards better water quality because it makes compliance easier for those enrolled under the permit.

Another important part of this permit has been the use of four stakeholder focus meetings. These focus meetings are unprecedented, bringing together small groups of stakeholders around the table to have a professionally moderated discussion on the issues of the MS4 permit. I was thrilled to be a part of this process and put to use the time I spent learning the permit like the back of my hand. Both Jill and I have been representing the environmental perspective at the table along with other environmental groups to make this permit even better.

While the permit is currently in the pre-public form, there are going to be a number of significant ways for you to get involved later on in the process. The next entry will detail the permitting process a bit more and ways that you can get involved while the MS4 permit is developed. The last entry in the series will explain how you can get involved in the implementation process of the permit after it has been adopted.

Make sure you’re up to date on the permit process–sign up for email updates here.