Water: Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments
Chapter 1: Introduction - III. Technical Approach Taken in Devoloping this Guidance
Nonpoint source pollutants are transported to surface water by a variety of means, including runoff, snowmelt, and ground-water infiltration. Ground water and surface water are both considered part of the same hydrologic cycle when designing management measures. Ground-water contributions of pollutant loadings to surface waters in coastal areas are often very significant. Hydrologic modification is another form of nonpoint source pollution that often adversely affects the biological and physical integrity of surface waters.
Source control is the first opportunity in any nonpoint source control effort. Source control methods vary for different types of nonpoint source problems. Examples of source control include:
- Reducing or eliminating the introduction of pollutants to a land area. Examples include reduced nutrient and pesticide application.
- Preventing pollutants from leaving the site during land-disturbing activities. Examples include using conservation tillage, planning forest road construction to minimize erosion, siting marinas adjacent to deep waters to eliminate or minimize the need for dredging, and managing grazing to protect against overgrazing and the resulting increased soil erosion.
- Preventing interaction between precipitation and introduced pollutants. Examples include installing gutters and diversions to keep clean rainfall away from barnyards, diverting rainfall runoff from areas of land disturbance at construction sites, and timing chemical applications or logging activities based on weather forecasts or seasonal weather patterns.
- Protecting riparian habitat and other sensitive areas. Examples include protection and preservation of riparian zones, shorelines, wetlands, and highly erosive slopes.
- Protecting natural hydrology. Examples include the maintenance of pervious surfaces in developing areas (conditioned based on ground-water considerations), riparian zone protection, and water management.
Pollution prevention often involves delivery reduction in addition to appropriate source control measures. Delivery reduction practices intercept pollutants leaving the source prior to their delivery to the receiving water by capturing the runoff or infiltrate, followed either by treating and releasing the effluent or by permanently keeping the effluent from reaching a surface water or ground-water resource. Management measures in this guidance incorporate delivery reduction practices as appropriate to achieve the greatest degree of pollutant reduction economically achievable, as required by the statute.
By their nature, delivery reduction practices often bring with them side effects that must be accounted for. For example, management practices that intercept pollutants leaving the source may reduce runoff, but also may increase infiltration to ground water. For instance, infiltration basins trap runoff and allow for its percolation. These devices, although highly successful at controlling suspended solids, may not, because of their infiltration properties, be suitable for use in areas with high ground-water tables and nitrate or pesticide residue problems. Thus, the reader should select management practices with some care for the total water quality impact of the practices.
The performance of delivery reduction practices is to a large extent dependent on suitable designs, operational conditions, and proper maintenance. For example, filter strips may be effective for controlling particulate and soluble pollutants where sedimentation is not excessive, but may be overwhelmed by high sediment input. Thus, in many cases, filter strips are used as pretreatment or supplemental treatment for other practices within a management system, rather than as an entire solution to a sedimentation problem.
These examples illustrate that the combination of source control and delivery reduction practices, as well as the application of those practices as components of management measures, is dependent on site-specific conditions. Technical factors that may affect the suitability of management measures include, but are not limited to, land use, climate, size of drainage area, soil permeability, slopes, depth to water table, space requirements, type and condition of the water resource to be protected, depth to bedrock, and pollutants to be addressed. In this management measures guidance, many of these factors are discussed as they affect the suitability of particular measures.
Technical experts who design and implement effective nonpoint source control measures do so from a management systems approach as opposed to an approach that focuses on individual practices. That is, the pollutant control achievable from any given management system is viewed as the sum of the parts, taking into account the range of effectiveness associated with each single practice, the costs of each practice, and the resulting overall cost and effectiveness. Some individual practices may not be very effective alone but, in combination with others, may provide a key function in highly effective systems. This management measures guidance attempts to adopt an approach that encourages such system-building by stating the measures in general terms, followed by discussion of specific management practices, which combined encourage the use of appropriate situation-specific sets of practices that will achieve the management measure.
EPA has determined that all of the management measures in this guidance are economically achievable, including, where limited data were available, cost-effective. Congress defined "management measures" to mean "economically achievable measures ... which reflect the greatest degree of pollutant reduction achievable through the application of the best available nonpoint pollution control practices, technologies, processes, siting criteria, operating methods, or other alternatives."