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Water: Watersheds

Laws, Regulations, Treaties (Watersheds)

Related Links: General Water Laws | Wetlands | Oceans, Coasts, & Estuaries | Watersheds

Key federal statutes governing watersheds in the United States

Clean Water Act

The Clean Water Act is a 1977 amendment to the Federal Water Pollution Control Act of 1972, which set the basic structure for regulating discharges of pollutants to waters of the United States.

Water Impairment Identification - Section 303(d)  Exit EPA Disclaimer This section of the Clean Water Act requires States to identify waters that do not or are not expected to meet applicable water quality standards with technology-based controls alone. Waters impacted by thermal discharges are also to be identified. After the identification and priority ranking of water quality-limited waters are completed, States are to develop TMDLs at a level necessary to achieve the applicable State water quality standards.

A Total Maximum Daily Load is a calculation of the maximum amount of a pollutant that a waterbody can receive and still meet water quality standards, and an allocation of that amount to the pollutant's sources. Water quality standards are set by States, Territories and Tribes. Section 303 of the Clean Water Act establishes the water quality standards and TMDL programs.

Permits for Dredge and Fill - Section 404 - establishes a program to regulate the discharge of dredged and fill material into waters of the United States, including wetlands.

Nonpoint Source Management Program - Section 319 was established to recognize the need for greater federal leadership to help focus State and local nonpoint source efforts. Under section 319, State, Territories, and Indian Tribes receive grant money which support a wide variety of activities including technical assistance, financial assistance, education, training, technology transfer, demonstration projects, and monitoring to assess the success of specific nonpoint source implementation projects.

Coastal Zone Management Act of 1972

Amended through the Coastal Zone Act Reauthorization Amendments (CZARA) of 1990 and P.L. 104-150, The Coastal Zone Protection Act of 1996.

Coastal Zone Management Act  Exit EPA Disclaimer

Summary of Section 6217 of the Coastal Nonpoint Source Pollution Control Program

Regulations and Policy

Watershed-Based National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permitting Policy (PDF) (4 pp, 149K, About PDF) - G. Tracy Mehan, III - Jan. 7, 2003

The Policy describes the benefits of watershed-based permitting, the implementing mechanisms for this component of the watershed approach, and how EPA will be encouraging an increase in the use of watershed-based NPDES permits.

Committing EPA's Water Program to Advancing the Watershed Approach - G. Tracy Mehan, III -- Dec. 3, 2002

Guidance for Management of Section 205(j)(1) and Section 604(b) Funds (PDF) (7 pp, 486K, About PDF) During Fiscal Years 1988 - 1990 - William A. Whittington, Director, Office of Water Regulations and Standards - Aug. 18, 1987

This guidance represents EPA's Office of Water's statement on the principles and procedures for the award and oversight of water quality planning grants using section 604 (b) funds. Section 205 (j) (1) of the Clean Water Act (CWA) directs states to conduct water quality planning; section 604 (b) establishes the funding authority. Actual funds are derived from State Revolving Fund appropriations under Title VI of the CWA, using a legislatively mandated formula. While the guidance is somewhat dated in terms of issuance, it details with great clarity the principles and procedures that EPA Regional offices and state water quality planning offices should use in the management and award process for water quality planning using section 604 (b) funds. The concepts, principles and procedures contained in the document are still highly relevant and meaningful to the section 604 (b) grant program. As a result, the Office of Water continues to promote regional and state use of the guidance in the management of the section 604 (b) grant program.


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