Overview of Maryland’s Water Resources Management Framework
Under Maryland law, Annotated Code §5–203, Environment Article, MDE “has general supervisory power, regulation, and control over the water resources of the State within the boundaries of the tidal waters” as provided in that article. The statute requires MDE to “develop a general water resources program which contemplates proper conservation and development of the waters of the State, in a manner compatible with multiple purpose management on a watershed or aquifer basis, or any other appropriate geographical unit.” As a practical matter, MDE implements this water resource program by issuing various permits and approvals through a regulatory framework grounded in state and federal law.
The primary federal laws for protecting and restoring water resources that are delegated to MDE include the CWA and the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA). Maryland also has additional authorities under state law for regulating water resources, ensuring flood management, and managing water supply. Departmental permits and approvals issued to regulated entities, including local governments responsible for planning growth and development, are designed with the goal to protect and restore Maryland’s water resources, protect public health and safety, and the aquatic life that depends on these waters.
To assist local jurisdictions in preparing their WRE, it is important to have a basic understanding of the federal CWA framework. The SDWA applies more specifically to the regulation of public water systems and utilities, but certain components of the SDWA, like source water protection, are important to consider when developing the WRE. MDE also regulates and protects water supplies through surface water and groundwater appropriation permits (as mandated by state law) and an understanding of that process, including MDE’s method for estimating safe yields from different geological regions and aquifers, can also help local jurisdictions ensure there is adequate water supply to support current and future development.
Certain water resource impacts are less regulated. For example, nonpoint source pollution from agriculture and septic systems, and non-MS4 stormwater runoff, are not regulated through the CWA framework (although they are to some extent through state law).