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Water: Polluted Runoff

NONPOINT SOURCE PROGRAM AND GRANTS GUIDANCE FOR FISCAL YEAR 1997 AND FUTURE YEARS

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May 1996

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency

Office of Water

Washington, D.C.

FOREWORD

In 1995 and early 1996, senior representatives of State nonpoint source agencies from each of the ten U.S. regions joined with key representatives from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency in a series of meetings to discuss the future direction of the national nonpoint source program under Section 319 of the Clean Water Act. These highly productive meetings led to a common understanding that the key to significant further progress in nonpoint source control lies in effective State implementation of well-designed, supported and financed State programs.

This guidance represents a major step forward in providing to States the tools and the flexibility needed by States to implement highly effective nonpoint source programs. It recognizes the need for States to review and, where needed, revise their programs to focus on effective solutions to water quality problems caused by nonpoint source pollution. It also provides that, consistent with the maturation of State programs, EPA will no longer use a competitive approach to award a portion of the Section 319 funds.

This guidance provides a sound framework for setting the future course of the nonpoint source program. Developed collaboratively by EPA and States, this guidance projects a clear vision of dynamic and effective State programs that are designed to achieve and maintain beneficial uses of water. It is consistent with the National Environmental Performance Partnership System and provides flexibility to States to manage their nonpoint source programs and resources in the manner that they believe will produce the best environmental results.

We look forward to continuing to work closely with EPA to foster positive working relationships among all our many partners with a stake in clean water. It is our hope and expectation that our efforts will lead to achievement of our common vision of achieving and maintaining beneficial uses of water for the enjoyment of future generations.

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EXECUTIVE SUMMARY

This guidance promotes a new generation of strong partnerships between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and State lead nonpoint source agencies. Our long-term vision is:

ALL STATES ARE IMPLEMENTING DYNAMIC AND EFFECTIVE NONPOINT SOURCE PROGRAMS DESIGNED TO ACHIEVE AND MAINTAIN BENEFICIAL USES OF WATER.

To achieve this vision, EPA and State nonpoint source lead agencies have agreed upon a new, streamlined framework for the implementation of State nonpoint source programs under section 319 of the Clean Water Act. States and EPA will work together to review, revise and implement enhanced State nonpoint source management programs that apply nine key elements of State programs that have been developed jointly. States will have flexibility to implement their programs in a manner that maximizes their ability to achieve our long-term vision.

Beginning in late Fiscal Year 1996, States will review and, as appropriate, revise nonpoint source management programs to reflect the following nine key elements:

  1. Explicit short- and long-term goals, objectives and strategies to protect surface and ground water.
  2. Strong working partnerships and collaboration with appropriate State, interstate, Tribal, regional, and local entities (including conservation districts), private sector groups, citizens groups, and Federal agencies.
  3. A balanced approach that emphasizes both State-wide nonpoint source programs and on-the ground management of individual watersheds where waters are impaired or threatened.
  4. The State program (a) abates known water quality impairments resulting from nonpoint source pollution and (b) prevents significant threats to water quality from present and future activities.
  5. An identification of waters and watersheds impaired or threatened by nonpoint source pollution and a process to progressively address these waters.
  6. The State reviews, upgrades and implements all program components required by section 319 of the Clean Water Act, and establishes flexible, targeted, iterative approaches to achieve and maintain beneficial uses of water as expeditiously as practicable.
  7. An identification of Federal lands and objectives which are not managed consistently with State program objectives.
  8. Efficient and effective management and implementation of the State's nonpoint source program, including necessary financial management.
  9. A feedback loop whereby the State reviews, evaluates, and revises its nonpoint source assessment and its management program at least every five years.

These key elements of upgraded State nonpoint source management programs are discussed in Section III-A of this guidance and a program evaluation guide based on those nine key elements is presented in Appendix A.

Consistent with States' implementation of stronger programs, beginning in Fiscal Year 1997 EPA will no longer use a competitive approach to award a portion of section 319 funds. Rather, EPA will use the allocation formula presented in Appendix G to determine the amount to be awarded to each State. EPA will also be paring grants application procedures and reporting requirements to the minimum necessary to assure that grant funds are used legally and effectively.

A State which incorporates all nine key elements in its revised nonpoint source management program and which has proven a track record of effective implementation of its nonpoint source programs will be formally recognized by the Regional Administrator and the Assistant Administrator for Water as a Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits State. NPS Enhanced Benefits States will be afforded substantially reduced oversight and maximum flexibility to implement their State programs and to achieve water quality objectives. Thus, while EPA has greatly streamlined the section 319 grants program for all States, EPA is providing further flexibility to the Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits States with complete programs and proven track records. This additional flexibility is discussed in Section III-B.

It is our goal that within a few years, all or most States will have improved their programs to the extent that they are recognized as Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits States.

EPA's role in the nonpoint source program will shift away from grants oversight and administration and towards technical assistance and cooperation to help States implement well-designed nonpoint source management programs. Technical assistance, training, watershed- or community-based projects, cross-border or ecosystem-wide initiatives, and special assistance in working with other Federal agencies are examples of specific ways in which EPA will collaborate with States to achieve environmental results. Within its resource constraints, EPA will provide more sophisticated assistance such as advanced modeling and monitoring tools and design of high-quality watershed projects. EPA will also help arrange for needed technical assistance in monitoring, modeling and best management practices from other Federal agencies, especially the US Geological Survey, the US Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service and the Bureau of Land Management. Where necessary and appropriate, EPA will also provide special assistance with Federal agencies where Federal activities may not be consistent with State nonpoint source management programs.

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I. OUR VISION

This guidance promotes a new generation of strong partnerships between the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and State lead nonpoint source agencies. Our long-term vision is:

ALL STATES IMPLEMENT DYNAMIC AND EFFECTIVE NONPOINT SOURCE PROGRAMS DESIGNED TO ACHIEVE AND MAINTAIN BENEFICIAL USES OF WATER.

To achieve this vision, this guidance establishes a new, streamlined framework for the implementation of State nonpoint source management programs under section 319 of the Clean Water Act. States and EPA will work together to revise, approve, and implement enhanced State nonpoint source management programs that apply nine key elements. States will have the freedom to implement their programs in a flexible manner that maximizes their ability to achieve our long-term vision, supported by a reasonably predictable flow of nonpoint source grants from EPA.

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II. INTRODUCTION

A. Background

Congress enacted section 319 of the Clean Water Act in 1987, establishing a national program to control nonpoint sources of water pollution. Nonpoint source pollution is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground and carrying natural and human-made pollutants into lakes, rivers, streams, wetlands, estuaries, other coastal waters, and ground water. Atmospheric deposition and hydrologic modification are also sources of nonpoint pollution.

Under section 319, States address nonpoint pollution by developing nonpoint source assessment reports that identify nonpoint source pollution problems and the nonpoint sources responsible for the water quality problems. States also adopt management programs to control nonpoint source pollution and then implement the management programs. Section 319(h) provides for EPA's award of grants to States to help them to implement those management programs. Both the assessment report and management program must be approved by EPA in order for a State to be eligible for section 319(h) funds. All States now have EPA-approved assessment reports and management programs.

Congress appropriated the first section 319 grant funds in Fiscal Year (FY) 1990. On December 1 and 15, 1989, EPA issued interim guidance for awarding FY 1990 grant funds to the States, including an interim planning target formula based on nonpoint source control needs.

After soliciting and obtaining public comment, EPA issued final grant guidance on February 15, 1991.

The 1991 guidance served as the main national guidance for the award of section 319(h) grants in FY 1991 - 1993. On June 24, 1993, EPA published a revised nonpoint source grants guidance to include an expedited schedule for awarding section 319(h) grants, improvements to the process for awarding such grants, and clarifications on reporting and other requirements. This revised guidance served as the basis for nonpoint source grants from FY 1994 to FY 1996.

States, Territories, and Tribes have made substantial progress in tackling high priority nonpoint source water quality problems. Projects that have received funding from section 319 grants have ranged from information and educational programs to the demonstration of innovative technologies and watershed-based approaches to solving water quality problems. With the help of section 319 grants, States have been able to address site- and watershed-specific water quality problems as well as to initiate and maintain State-wide nonpoint source programs.

In recognition of this progress, representatives of EPA and State lead nonpoint source agencies held a series of meetings in 1995 to consider fundamental changes to the nonpoint source program. These meetings reflected the twin premises that given the increasing maturity of State programs, it is timely for the States to review, revise, and implement enhanced nonpoint source management programs, and it is correspondingly appropriate for EPA to provide States with increased flexibility to manage and implement these programs, supported by a streamlined and more efficient grants oversight process.

These meetings led to initial grants policy changes that were announced in a memorandum dated April 7, 1995, which became effective at the beginning of FY 1996. Those changes, which continue to be reflected in this guidance, provide States greater flexibility to use a portion of their grant funds to improve their nonpoint source assessments and upgrade their nonpoint source management programs.

This guidance also continues the policy announced in the April 7, 1995 memorandum that States will now have greater flexibility to set their own priorities. Specifically, several set-asides or separate funding elements that applied in the past are now removed for ground-water protection, watershed resource restoration, and national nonpoint source monitoring projects. The original purposes of these set asides have been fulfilled or exceeded, so they are no longer necessary.

In subsequent meetings, EPA and State lead nonpoint source agencies considered more fundamental changes to the national nonpoint source program. The results of these efforts are reflected in this guidance.

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B. Scope of This Guidance

This guidance is primarily directed towards nonpoint source management programs and grants administered by State lead nonpoint source agencies designated under section 319 of the Clean Water Act. Territories of the United States are included by the Clean Water Act in the term "States" and are included as States in this guidance.

Properly qualified Native American Tribes may also administer nonpoint source management programs under section 319 of the Clean Water Act. This guidance is not specifically directed to Tribal nonpoint source management programs, however, but may be used for administering section 319 programs and grants with the agreement of EPA and the eligible Tribe. Alternatively, A Tribal Guide to the State Section 319 Nonpoint Source Management Program (USEPA, Office of Water, September 1994) may be used.

This guidance contains two components. First, it establishes a framework for reviewing, revising, and approving enhanced State nonpoint source management programs. Second, it establishes a new framework for the national nonpoint source grants program. This guidance will serve as the basis for State nonpoint source management programs and for the national nonpoint source grants program, beginning in FY 1997. This guidance supersedes and replaces the Nonpoint Source Guidance issued by EPA in December 1987 and the Final Guidance on the Award of Nonpoint Source Grants issued in June 1993.

This national guidance is intended to serve as the basis for a nationally consistent approach for State nonpoint source management programs and grants. Therefore, beginning in FY 1997, Regions will not issue separate, supplemental guidance specifically for State nonpoint source programs or grants. If particular Regional circumstances require additional clarifications on a particular issue, the Region will consult with the affected States and with EPA Headquarters on the appropriate next steps.

As in the past, EPA's policy will be to award all section 319 grants under section 319(h), in lieu of awarding separate grants under section 319(I). Thus this guidance applies to all section 319 grants. This approach will encourage integration of ground-water activities with overall State nonpoint source control programs, while maximizing State flexibility to consider and prioritize all causes and effects of nonpoint sources of water pollution.

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C. Relationship to the National Environmental Performance Partnership System and Performance Partnership Grants

On May 17, 1995, State and EPA leaders signed a "Joint Commitment to Reform Oversight and Create a National Environmental Performance partnership System" (NEPPS). The objective of signing this agreement was to accelerate the transition to a new working relationship between EPA and the States -- one which reflects the advancement made in environmental protection over the preceding two decades by both the States and EPA.

Key goals that this new partnership agreement shares with Performance Partnership Grants (PPG) are: to allow States and EPA to achieve improved environmental results by directing scarce public resources toward the highest priority, highest value activities; to provide States with greater flexibility to achieve those results; to improve public understanding of environmental conditions and choices; and to enhance accountability to the public and taxpayers. Other key goals of the NEPPS partnership agreement are increased reliance on self-management by State programs and a differential approach to oversight that serves as an incentive for State programs to perform well, rewarding strong programs and freeing up federal resources to address problems where State programs need assistance.

This guidance has been drafted to be consistent with the overall framework of The National Environmental Performance Partnership System and Performance Partnership Grants. The nonpoint source program is an eligible grant program in a Performance Partnership Grant. For those States that wish to include the nonpoint source program in their request for a PPG and/or NEPPS Agreement, this guidance should be used as the foundation for substantive discussions on establishing nonpoint source environmental goals and program performance expectations. In particular, States choosing to enter into Environmental Performance Agreements with EPA should address the nine key elements of an effective State nonpoint source program, discussed below, as part of these agreements.

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D. The Watershed Approach and Community-based Environmental Protection

EPA is working to realign its programs to support community-based environmental protection, whereby local stakeholders join forces to plan and implement environmental protection measures that make good sense for the particular conditions found within their communities. For water resources, such community-based environmental protection is frequently embodied in the watershed approach.

The watershed approach is a coordinating framework for environmental management that focuses public and private sector efforts to address the highest priority water-related problems within geographic areas, considering both surface and ground water flow. The watershed approach is commonly characterized by four principles: a) well integrated partnerships, b) a specific geographic focus, c) action driven by environmental objectives and by strong science and data, and d) coordinated priority setting and integrated solutions.

This guidance should be used by EPA and States to help advance the watershed approach and community-based environmental protection as a means for resolving nonpoint source pollution problems and threats. Some States and EPA Regions have historically focussed their nonpoint source programs narrowly on demonstrations, supported by Federal section 319 grants. As States and EPA move away from demonstrations and toward watershed- or community-based nonpoint source programs to solve nonpoint source pollution problems on a much wider scale, this guidance is intended to clarify State and EPA goals and responsibilities and to hasten the change in focus.

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E. Relationship to Other Environmental Protection Programs

The goal of national and State nonpoint source programs is to achieve and maintain beneficial uses of water. EPA and the States recognize that, to achieve this goal, EPA's and States' nonpoint source programs must be well integrated with other environmental and natural resource management programs. These programs include point source programs, particularly with respect to common and overlapping areas such as urban runoff, construction, inactive and abandoned mines, animal waste facilities, and marinas; comprehensive State ground-water protection programs; clean lakes programs; wetlands protection programs; estuary programs; watershed planning and total maximum daily loads; and ambient monitoring programs. Moreover, nonpoint source management programs should be consistent with the broad overarching principles of environmental management, including watershed protection and pollution prevention. Accordingly, State nonpoint source programs need to be broadly inclusive so as to best meet States' water quality needs.

Beneficial uses of water (usually termed 'designated uses') are established by States, participating Tribes and other jurisdictions as a part of State water quality standards adopted and approved under section 303 of the Clean Water Act. State water quality standards are dynamic in nature and are periodically revised to reflect changes in science and law, which may in turn result in changes to the specific objectives and requirements in State section 319 nonpoint source management programs. Since our vision for national and State nonpoint source programs is tied to the attainment and maintenance of beneficial uses of water, State nonpoint source programs must be closely coordinated with State water quality standards programs and be periodically revised to reflect changes in beneficial uses.

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III. NONPOINT SOURCE MANAGEMENT PROGRAMS

EPA and the State lead nonpoint source agencies agree that the national nonpoint source program should be redesigned to create incentives and support for States to develop enhanced nonpoint source management programs that successfully address all of the nine key elements of an effective State program as listed and discussed below. EPA's approach will be to work closely with the States and give them programmatic and technical support as they move into a more advanced and independent level of program implementation.

A key feature of the new approach is to recognize and reward States that adopt nine key program elements and which have a proven track record of effectively implementing nonpoint source programs. EPA intends that these States will be formally recognized as Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits States by EPA's Regional Administrators and the Assistant Administrator for Water and be provided benefits commensurate with their advanced level of program accomplishment. These benefits are described in Section III-B and include priority for multi-year grant work plans, streamlined review of grants applications, increased technical assistance, reduced reporting requirements, and reduced EPA oversight.

It is EPA's goal that within the next few years, all or most States will have improved their programs to the extent that they are recognized as Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits States. EPA will focus its available resources on helping States achieve and maintain this advanced level of program development and implementation.

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A. Nine Key Elements of an Effective State Program

EPA and the State lead nonpoint source agencies agree that the following nine key elements characterize an effective and dynamic State nonpoint source program. Each key element appears in bold type and is then followed by explanatory text that elaborates on the key element. The explanatory text provides information on means by which the States may choose to implement the key element.

All States will review and, as appropriate, revise their nonpoint source management programs in a manner that reflects these nine key elements. States will then submit their upgraded programs to EPA for approval. As discussed below in Sections III-B and V of this guidance, States that successfully incorporate these nine key elements into their programs and have a proven track record of effective implementation will be recognized Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits States and be provided maximum flexibility in implementing their programs and other benefits.

1. The State program contains explicit short- and long-term goals, objectives and strategies to protect surface and ground water.

The State's long-term goals are consistent with the national program vision that all States implement dynamic and effective nonpoint source programs designed to achieve and maintain beneficial uses of water. The shorter-term objectives consist of activities, with milestones, that are designed to demonstrate reasonable further progress that leads to accomplishment of the long-term goals as expeditiously as possible. The State program includes objectives that address nonpoint sources of ground-water pollution. The objectives list both implementation steps and the results to be achieved (e.g., water quality improvements or load reductions).

The State program includes long-term goals; shorter-term (e.g., 3- to 5-year) objectives that are periodically updated based on progress; strategies to achieve progress towards achieving the goals, objectives; indicators to measure progress; and annual work plans to implement the strategies.

2. The State strengthens its working partnerships and linkages to appropriate State, interstate, Tribal, regional, and local entities (including conservation districts), private sector groups, citizens groups, and Federal agencies.

The State uses a variety of formal and informal mechanisms to form and sustain these partnerships. Examples include memoranda of agreement, letters of support, cooperative projects, sharing and combining of funds, and meetings to share information and ideas.

The State nonpoint source lead agency works collaboratively with other key State and local nonpoint source entities in the development and implementation of the section 319 management program, and actively involves them in decision making. Interagency collaborative teams, nonpoint source task forces, and representative advisory groups have all proven effective for accomplishing these linkages, especially where they meet on a regular basis and are managed in a collaborative and inclusive manner.

Further, the State seeks public involvement and comment on significant proposed program changes and engages in public education activities to promote public awareness of nonpoint source pollution and its solutions. As appropriate, representatives are involved from local, regional, State, interstate, Tribal and Federal agencies, and public interest groups, industries, academic institutions, private landowners and producers, concerned citizens and others. This involvement helps ensure that environmental objectives are well integrated with those for economic stability and other social and cultural goals.

3. The State uses a balanced approach that emphasizes both State-wide nonpoint source programs and on-the-ground management of individual watersheds where waters are impaired or threatened.

The State nonpoint source management program emphasizes a watershed management approach and is well integrated with other important programs to protect and restore water quality. These include point source, ground water, drinking water, clean lakes, wetlands protection, and national estuary programs; coastal zone programs; conservation, and pesticide management programs; forestry programs; and other natural resource and environmental management programs.

Each State has the flexibility to design its nonpoint source management program in a manner that is best suited to attain and maintain beneficial uses of water. On-the-ground implementation of practices and programs is the best means of reducing and preventing pollution from nonpoint sources, but States may achieve this on-the-ground implementation by a combination of watershed approaches and State-wide programs. Similarly, as described more fully in key element 5 below, the State may use any combination of water-quality or technology-based approaches it deems appropriate to make progress towards attaining and maintaining beneficial uses of water.

4. The State program (a) abates known water quality impairments from nonpoint source pollution and (b) prevents significant threats to water quality from present and future nonpoint source activities.

The program is designed to remedy waters that the State has identified as impaired by nonpoint source pollution. Further, the program is designed to prevent new water quality problems from present and reasonably foreseeable nonpoint source activities, especially in waters which currently meet water quality standards.

While it may take years to remedy waters that are already impaired, it is also important for States to take appropriate steps expeditiously to protect clean waters from reasonably foreseeable degradation. State programs should place a priority on protecting waters from future nonpoint source pollution as soon as possible (generally within 5 years).

5. The State program identifies waters and their watersheds impaired by nonpoint source pollution and identifies important unimpaired waters that are threatened or otherwise at risk. Further, the State establishes a process to progressively address these identified waters by conducting more detailed watershed assessments and developing watershed implementation plans, and then by implementing the plans.

The State identifies waters impaired by nonpoint source pollution based on currently available information (e.g., in reports under sections 305(b), 319(a), 303(d), 314(a), and 320), and revises its list periodically as more up-to-date assessment information becomes available. The State also identifies important unimpaired waters that are threatened or otherwise at risk from nonpoint source pollution.

In addition the State identifies the primary categories and subcategories causing the water quality impairments, threats, and risks. At 5-year intervals, the State updates the identification of waters and their watersheds impaired or threatened by nonpoint source pollution preferably as part of a single comprehensive State water quality assessment which integrates reports required by sections 305(b), 319(a), 303(d), 314(a) and 320.

The factors used by the State to progressively address its waters may include a variety of relevant environmental and administrative considerations, including, for example:

  • human health;
  • ecosystem health including ecological risk;
  • the beneficial uses of the water;
  • value of the watershed or ground-water area to the public;
  • vulnerability of the surface or ground water to additional environmental degradation;
  • likelihood of achieving demonstrable environmental results;
  • implementability;
  • extent of alliances with other Federal agencies and States to coordinate resources and actions; and
  • readiness to proceed.

The State links its prioritization and implementation strategy to other programs and efforts as appropriate. Examples include total maximum daily loads, clean lakes programs, comprehensive ground-water protection programs, source water protection programs, wetlands protection programs, national estuary programs, ambient monitoring programs, and pesticides management programs. Related programs administered by agricultural, forestry, highway, and other agencies should also be linked, for example, USDA's Water Quality Initiative, PL-534 and PL-566 Watershed Projects and the Northwest Salmon Initiative. In establishing priorities for ground-water activities, the State considers wellhead protection areas, ground-water recharge areas, and zones of significant ground water/surface water interaction.

More detailed information on priority setting is also contained in pp. 11 and 12 of the December 1987 Nonpoint Source Guidance; Setting Priorities: The Key to Nonpoint Source Control (EPA, 1987); Selecting Priority Nonpoint Source Projects: You Better Shop Around (EPA, 1989); Geographic Targeting: Selected State Examples (EPA, 1993) and Watershed Protection: A Project Focus (EPA, 1995).

6. The State reviews, upgrades, and implements all program components required by section 319(b) of the Clean Water Act, and establishes flexible, targeted, and iterative approaches to achieve and maintain beneficial uses of water as expeditiously as practicable. The State programs include:

  • A mix of water quality-based and/or technology-based programs designed to achieve and maintain beneficial uses of water; and
  • A mix of regulatory, non-regulatory, financial and technical assistance as needed to achieve and maintain beneficial uses of water as expeditiously as practicable.

Section 319(b) specifies the minimum contents of State nonpoint source management programs. These include:

(i) An identification of the measures (i.e., systems of practices) that will be used to control nonpoint sources of pollution, focusing on those measures which the State believes will be most effective in achieving and maintaining water quality standards. These measures may be individually identified or presented in manuals or compendiums, provided that they are specific and are related to the category or subcategory of nonpoint sources. They may also be identified as part of a watershed approach towards achieving water quality standards, whether locally, within a watershed, or state-wide;

(ii) An identification of programs to achieve implementation of the measures, including, as appropriate, nonregulatory or regulatory programs for enforcement, technical assistance, financial assistance, education, training, technology transfer, and demonstration projects. States should establish a flexible, targeted approach to solve their water quality problems. States have the freedom to decide the best approaches for solving the problems that they identify under key element 5 above. These approaches may include one or all of the following:

  • watershed or water quality-based approaches aimed at meeting water quality standards directly;
  • iterative, technology-based approaches based on best management practices or measures, applied on either a categorical or site-specific basis; or
  • an appropriate mix of these approaches.

(iii) A description of the processes used to coordinate and, where appropriate, integrate the various programs used to implement nonpoint source pollution controls in the State;

(iv) A schedule with goals, objectives, and annual milestones for implementation at the earliest practicable date: legal authorities to implement the program; available resources; and institutional relationships;

(v) If the State program is changed substantially, certification by the Attorney General or designee;

(vi) Sources of funding from Federal (other than section 319), State, local, and private sources;

(vii) Federal land management programs, development projects and financial assistance programs (see key element 7 below); and

(viii) A description of the monitoring and other evaluation programs that the State will conduct to help determine short- and long-term program effectiveness.

In addition, State nonpoint source programs must incorporate existing baseline requirements established by other applicable Federal or State laws to the extent that they are relevant. For example, coastal States and Territories should include or cross-reference approved State coastal nonpoint source programs required by section 6217 of the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments of 1990. In this manner, States can make sure that these coastal nonpoint source programs, and other relevant baseline programs are integrated into section 319 programs and that they are eligible for section 319(h) grant funding, which is limited by section 319(h)(1) to "the implementation of approved section 319 programs."

All of these components should be identified by the State, included in the State nonpoint source management program and be reviewed and approved by EPA under section 319 of the Clean Water Act.

7. The State identifies Federal lands and activities which are not managed consistently with State nonpoint source program objectives. Where appropriate, the State seeks EPA assistance to help resolve issues.

The State commits to reviewing and identifying those Federal land management programs, development projects and financial assistance programs that are or may be inconsistent with the State's nonpoint source management program.

As a Federal agency, EPA has a special role to play in support of State nonpoint source programs by working with other Federal agencies to enhance their understanding of the significance of nonpoint source pollution and of the need to work cooperatively with States to solve nonpoint source problems. Where appropriate, EPA will help develop memoranda of agreement among States and Federal agencies to help reduce nonpoint source pollution on Federal lands and to better address nonpoint source pollution in Federal assistance programs and development projects. In addition, where appropriate, EPA will assist in resolving particular issues that arise between the State and Federal agencies with respect to Federal consistency with the State nonpoint source management program.

8. The State manages and implements its nonpoint source program efficiently and effectively, including necessary financial management.

The State implements its program to solve its water quality problems as effectively and expeditiously as possible. Timeliness is key to accomplishing environmental objectives and demonstrating results as soon as possible. To help assure that priority water quality problems are addressed cost-effectively and in a timely manner, the State includes in its program a process for identifying the critical areas requiring treatment and protection within watersheds selected for implementation activities, and assigns the highest priority to addressing those areas.

The State employs appropriate programmatic and financial systems that ensure that section 319 dollars are used consistently with its legal obligations, and generally manages all nonpoint source programmatic funds to maximize environmental benefits. The State ensures that section 319 funds complement and leverage funds available for technical and financial assistance from other Federal sources and agencies.

9. The State periodically reviews and evaluates its nonpoint source management program using environmental and functional measures of success, and revises its nonpoint source assessment and its management program at least every five years.

In its upgraded program, the State establishes appropriate measures of progress in meeting its programmatic and environmental goals and objectives identified in key element #1 above. The State also describes a monitoring/evaluation strategy and a schedule to measure success in meeting those goals and objectives. The State integrates monitoring and evaluation strategies with ongoing Federal natural resource inventories and monitoring programs.

Appendix A presents a guide for evaluating the effectiveness of State nonpoint source management programs, based on these nine key elements. Approaches to environmental indicators and monitoring and described below.

a. Environmental Indicators

States are encouraged to use several sets of measures to fully indicate their success in implementing their nonpoint source programs. These include measures that indicate progress towards achieving and maintaining beneficial uses of water; towards long-term goals (e.g., installing appropriate technology at all animal waste facilities that need to be upgraded, or implementing particular watershed projects); and towards shorter-term goals and objectives (e.g., successfully implementing a particular technology).

Appendix B contains an illustrative set of indicators and other measures that can help the States and the public gauge the progress and success of their programs. States may identify and use other indicators and measures that are most relevant to their particular nonpoint source problems, programs, and projects. However, States are strongly encouraged to use environmental endpoints to the greatest extent feasible, so that the State and the public may best recognize the State's progress in addressing water quality problems in terms that are most relevant to the public's concerns. In addition, as discussed in section IV-D of this guidance, States must include in its annual reports at least the three measures of progress that are identified in section 319(h)(11), including implementation milestones, available information on reductions in nonpoint source pollutant loadings, and available information on improvements in water quality.

EPA is currently developing a broad strategy for the use of environmental indicators for its various environmental programs, including its water programs. The list in Appendix B, while providing more detail on indicators that are of particular relevance to State nonpoint source programs, is consistent with the environmental indicators adopted nationally by EPA to measure progress towards environmental goals.

b. Monitoring in Watershed Projects

Appropriate monitoring of watershed project implementation is an essential tool to enable States to identify nonpoint source pollution problems and to evaluate nonpoint source program effectiveness. First, States need to identify sources, document the effectiveness of individual measures and BMP systems, and develop watershed-level strategies to prevent and control nonpoint source pollution. Second, in the case of watershed projects intended to demonstrate a new or innovative technical or institutional approach to resolving nonpoint source water quality problems, monitoring is needed to developing the information and data necessary to demonstrate the project's effectiveness and the applicability of the approach elsewhere. Third, monitoring is needed to help States meet the annual reporting requirements of section 319(h)(11), especially information on reductions in nonpoint source pollutant loading and improvements in water quality. Therefore, an appropriate type of monitoring should be considered for watershed projects funded with section 319 grants.

Major watershed projects should include some form of tracking or monitoring to evaluate effectiveness. Watershed implementation plans should include clearly stated monitoring objectives and an evaluation strategy making clear what the State expects to learn as a result of its evaluation of the project. The evaluation approach may be tailored to the specific project, based on factors such as the project's size and objectives. Approaches that can be used to meet the project evaluation needs include ambient water quality monitoring (e.g., edge-of-field, small watersheds, multiple watersheds, in-lake, in-aquifer monitoring), beneficial use assessment (e.g., biological/ habitat assessment, attainment of water quality standards), implementation monitoring (e.g., audits, activity tracking, geographic information system tracking of land use and land management), model projections, and photographic evidence. Ambient monitoring and beneficial use assessment tracking should be included for projects wherever feasible.

While States may use section 319(h) grant funds for monitoring activities for particular watershed projects, States are encouraged to also explore other approaches to conducting monitoring. For examples, the U.S. Geological Survey and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration hold an array of ambient data and can provide support for various monitoring activities, and volunteer monitoring programs are a useful resource in many States.

c. National Monitoring Program Exit EPA Disclaimer

To provide a credible national documentation of the feasibility of controlling and preventing pollution resulting from nonpoint sources, and to improve technical understanding of nonpoint source pollution and the effectiveness of nonpoint source control technology and approaches, EPA has established a more rigorous and standardized monitoring framework that can be used for a representative subset of watershed projects funded under section 319. This monitoring will be continued for this subset of selected watershed projects for appropriately long periods of time e.g., 6-10 years. States are strongly encouraged to conduct intensive water quality monitoring of one or more projects within the State as part of this national evaluation.

EPA has developed a framework for selecting national monitoring projects, issued guidelines for minimum monitoring activities, and developed software for managing and reporting data (see Appendix H for references). To date, 17 high-quality national projects have been selected across the country through a rigorous but collaborative process involving the State the EPA Region, and EPA Headquarters (these projects are listed in Appendix I). Additional high-quality monitoring projects will be selected in future years using the same collaborative process. For all projects, EPA provides specialized technical support in project development, monitoring design, data management and analysis, and reporting. From time to time, and in close collaboration with relevant States and project managers, EPA will publish progress reports and results.

Prior to Fiscal Year 1996, a small set aside was provided from section 319 grants for these national monitoring projects. Beginning in FY 1996, this set aside was eliminated along with all other discretionary set asides. Therefore, States are now strongly encouraged to give priority to projects in the National Monitoring Program. By the nature of nonpoint source pollution, long term monitoring results are crucial to determine successes and BMP effectiveness, which in turn requires sustained year-to-year funding. For those not familiar with this program, a detailed description of the national monitoring projects is available from EPA.

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B. Toward Our Vision: Dynamic and Effective Nonpoint Source Programs

All States and Territories now have approved nonpoint source management programs supported by Federal grants awarded under section 319. EPA and designated State lead nonpoint source lead agencies are committed to work to achieve our vision that all States are implementing dynamic and effective nonpoint source programs designed to achieve and maintain beneficial uses of water.

Generally, EPA's administration of section 319 grants, as well as EPA's technical assistance and support to States, should reflect the different levels of capability and accomplishment among the States. Moreover, EPA programs and State nonpoint source management programs alike will flourish best in an atmosphere of open discussion and collaboration. Therefore, based on open and collegial reviews of performance, EPA will provide recognition and enhanced administrative benefits to States which manifest the vision of this program.

Specifically, EPA and State senior managers should meet at least once a year to discuss (i) State nonpoint source environmental accomplishments and remaining problems, (ii) State nonpoint source management programs and needs for adjustment or evolution, and (iii) overall progress towards the vision of this program. Similarly, State needs for technical assistance and help from EPA should be discussed and agreed to. To the extent that a State has chosen to apply for a Performance Partnership Grant or participate in the National Environmental Performance Partnership System, the nonpoint source program should be discussed in the context of the overall environmental needs and goals of the State and as a component of the overall State-EPA environmental performance agreement.

EPA will promote State progress towards the vision of the program through incentives and technical support, in full collaboration with the State, and EPA will continue to support State programs financially through section 319 grants as a minimum. Administrative incentives will be offered to States to further encouraged to achieve the vision, including but not limited to recognition of Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits States.

A State which incorporates all nine key elements in its revised nonpoint source management program and which has proven a track record of effective implementation of its nonpoint source programs will be formally recognized by the Regional Administrator and the Assistant Administrator for Water as a Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits State.

NPS Enhanced Benefits States will be afforded substantially reduced oversight and maximum flexibility to implement their State programs and to achieve and maintain beneficial uses of water. Thus, while EPA has greatly streamlined the section 319 grants program for all States (e.g., grantee performance reports are generally to be required no more frequently than semi-annually), EPA is providing further flexibility to Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits States with complete programs and proven track records. A proven track record of effective implementation is indicated by the State's success to date in (a) establishing nonpoint source controls and installing measures and practices that provide real movement towards achieving water quality objectives through nonpoint source control, (b) generally meeting legal requirements relating to fiscal and administrative management.

Specifically, Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits States will be afforded the following benefits, as a minimum:

  • Top priority for developing multi-year work plans, thus eliminating yearly negotiations and paperwork;
  • Minimal EPA review of grant work plans;
  • Amount and frequency of reporting reduced to minimum (e.g., grantee performance reports are to be required no more frequently than annually);

  • Substantially reduced intensity and frequency of EPA oversight, including minimal evaluations of States' self-assessments and statutorily-mandated reports; and
  • Top priority for advanced technical expertise and assistance.

See Section IV. A. below for additional information on reduced oversight for Enhanced Benefits States.

Beginning in FY 1997, the EPA Regional Office will determine whether a State should be recognized as a Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits State, based on a timely and collaborative process involving the State and EPA Headquarters. Information, questions and issues will be discussed and shared among all these parties. EPA's recognition will be provided by the Regional Administrator and the Assistant Administrator for Water, accompanied by a public announcement and written recognition.

Once a State has been recognized as a Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits State, it will retain that status unless EPA determines that it no longer qualifies. In consultation with EPA Headquarters, the EPA Region and the State will review a State's Enhanced Benefits status every two or three years as needed to assure that the nonpoint source management program continues to include all nine key elements and that it maintains a proven track record of implementation.

EPA and the designated State lead nonpoint source agencies intend that within a few years, all or most States will have improved their programs and track records so that they are recognized as Nonpoint Source Enhanced Benefits States.

EPA's role will increasingly be focused on helping States which have not incorporated all nine key elements in its revised nonpoint source management program to do so, in a manner appropriate to the needs of the State. Further, EPA will focus increasingly on providing appropriate technical assistance and support to these States to help them implement their approved nonpoint source management programs and to build a good track record of implementation.

For all States, EPA's role in the nonpoint source program will shift away from grants oversight and administration and towards technical assistance and cooperation to help States implement well-designed nonpoint source management programs. Technical assistance, training, watershed- or community-based projects, cross-border or ecosystem-wide initiatives, and special assistance in working with other Federal agencies are examples of specific ways in which EPA will help States achieve environmental results. Within its resource constraints, EPA will provide more sophisticated assistance such as advanced modeling and monitoring tools and design of high-quality watershed projects. EPA will also help arrange for needed technical assistance in monitoring, modeling and best management practices from other Federal agencies, including the US Geological Survey, the US Forest Service, the Natural Resources Conservation Service, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Office of Surface Mining, the Army Corps of Engineers, and the Bureau of Land Management. Further, where necessary and appropriate, EPA will also provide special assistance with Federal agencies where Federal activities may not be consistent with State nonpoint source management programs.

EPA's role should be discussed and opportunities for EPA technical assistance and support to the State should be specifically identified during the annual State-EPA discussions of performance and progress.

continue to Section IV. GRANTS

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