Water Quality Implementation Process
MDE’s water quality implementation process, represented by the blue boxes in Figure 1, consists of both regulatory and non-regulatory tools to protect and restore water quality. The regulatory tools stem primarily from the federal CWA, but Maryland has additional authorities under state law, such as local water and sewer plan approval authority and authority over water supply and appropriation. Regulatory tools consist of permit requirements for regulated activities, associated compliance checks to ensure permit requirements are adhered to, grant and loan programs to assist with compliance, and enforcement capability to issue administrative and criminal penalties, as appropriate. Non-point source pollution discharges, for example agricultural runoff, are not regulated under the federal CWA and Maryland generally addresses those sources through state laws and regulations, stakeholder engagement, incentive programs, grants, and loans. More information on nonpoint sources can be found HERE and HERE.
Local governments have authority for comprehensive land use planning decisions and implementation, using various tools, while MDE has authority for protecting and restoring water resources. Due to the fact that land use decisions have a profound impact on water quality, it is critical that local planners consider water quality impacts early in the planning process to avoid inconsistencies with MDE’s authority for water quality restoration and protection. The primary goal of the WRE is to promote consistency between these two authorities.
MDE implements its water quality protection and restoration authority through issuing permits that limit and control pollution discharges to Maryland waters, laws that govern stormwater runoff management and sediment and erosion control for new development and redevelopment, and through TMDL implementation efforts. Upon receipt of a discharge permit application, for example, MDE (COMAR 26.08.04.01-2) makes a decision to issue or not issue the permit depending upon the type of project, water quality impacts, and in consideration of public comments. Permits also include limitations or conditions, including both general conditions and special conditions depending on the specific type of project, designed to protect water quality and regulated natural resources.