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We have heard from citizen complaints

"Waters up to my back door"

"The river is covered in trash"

"My driveway’s been washed away"

"There's an awful smell coming from the Creek."

All are connected to stormwater runoff… all are important… all deserve our attention.

So, how do we go about creating a clean water future together?

First, we must recognize that, as communities grow, the need to manage stormwater increases. Done properly, a well-managed stormwater program simply helps nature’s water cycle, promotes community health, and assures our lifestyle remains intact and attractive to new residents and businesses.

A survey of over one thousand Alabama residents commissioned by The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program reveals six common values that are most important to quality of life here.

The issue of stormwater runoff plays a major role in each value identified.

In 1987 Amendments to the Clean Water Act obligated the EPA and ADEM to require urban areas to regulate stormwater

The Municipal Separate Storm Sewer system (or ms4) refers to all stormwater conveyance structures managed by a municipality, county or other designated non-governmental facilities. Ms4 Stormwater programs are developed to prevent harmful pollutants from being washed and/or dumped into our stormwater conveyance structures and ultimately into our waters

The MS4 permitting program was introduced in a phased approach starting in 1990. Larger municipalities, having the greatest potential for stormwater impacts, were permitted first. In 1999, smaller municipalities were also brought under the MS4 permitting process

MS4s that are designated by ADEM are required to obtain a permit and develop a stormwater management program. Your program must be detailed within a stormwater management plan. It is important to understand that this requirement is not just an “unfunded mandate.” it is vital to the health of your community that the public becomes “stormwater savvy” in order to safeguard water quality and quality of life. Without this education, the value of everything in our lives is diminished and complaints rise.

The requirement states that your stormwater Management Plan shall include the following minimum steps, also known as minimum control measures

1 A public education and public involvement program highlighting stormwater. Your education program can include brochures, public workshops, and a website with easily understood information for residents to follow.

Include a public participation program to ensure community input on stormwater matters-- Interacting with residents on stormwater-related committees such as watershed groups, Alabama Cooperative Extension, your local Soil and Water Conservation District, and The Mobile Bay National Estuary Program helps connect citizens to the effort.

2. Illicit discharge detection & elimination -- your plan must include mapping & inspecting stormwater conveyance structures such as pipes, ditches, and detention ponds. Ordinances are needed prohibiting illicit discharges of oil, grease, paints, wash waters, and other pollutants

3 Construction site runoff control -- Your program should include monitoring of all construction sites, even your city’s projects, for stormwater impacts from land disturbance. Your program must include land erosion and sediment control, Inspections that are documented, and you must have enforcement capabilities.

4. Post-construction runoff control - your plan will encourage the development of post-construction stormwater management to minimize pollutants in new and re-developed areas; private and public stormwater facilities must be inspected and maintained; ordinances that require facility maintenance must be put in place.

5 Participants are required to have good housekeeping in place for the control and reduction of stormwater pollutants from public facilities. This includes street sweeping, litter control, employee training, and management of all environmental permits such as scrap tire facilities and underground storage tanks ( UST’s).

6. Stormwater program monitoring is required to provide data to assess how effective and adequate your program is at reducing pollutants. For larger and some smaller MS4s this includes water quality sampling for pollutants determined by the permit

7. Larger MS4's and some designated smaller MS4s are also required to cover other items, such as industrial stormwater runoff, spill prevention, and response, hazardous waste, and the application of pesticides, herbicides, and fertilizers

8. Finally, reporting is necessary - your program must document all steps and report to ADEM annually to verify that the program reduces stormwater pollutants and minimizes impacts to our waters

A comprehensive stormwater management plan is a powerful tool to help reduce complaints, improve the health of your community, and ultimately protect and enhance the things we value most.

Your program may be managed through internal staff or consultants based on your municipality or organization size, trained staff, and budget.

At any rate, it is important to realize full compliance is not optional. Many states are levying fines that reach into the millions of dollars.

Stormwater runoff affects us all on personal and economic levels. It is a challenge you can meet as a public employee through your work with citizens and through your valuable community connections.

Let’s work together to create a clean water future for Alabama today, and for generations to come.

For more information, please visit the Alabama Department of Environmental Management’s Municipal page at