EPA released on August 20 a draft clean water strategy that outlined plans for new rules and other initiatives to prevent water quality from degrading, better manage pollution from animal feeding operations, expand coverage of municipal stormwater permits, and promote green infrastructure. The draft document, Coming Together for Clean Water: EPA's Strategy for Achieving Clean Water, reflects in part the realization that although the clean water program has traditionally focused on controlling point-source pollution from industrial plants, some of the most significant factors in water degradation today are agriculture, stormwater runoff, habitat, and hydrology. The draft strategy was developed following an EPA forum in April. EPA is taking comment on the draft through September 17. The draft strategy lays out a plan to focus on five broad areas:
- Systematically assessing U.S. waters to provide a baseline for tracking progress,
- Enhancing the agency's ability to restore degraded waters and ecosystems,
- Increasing the focus on protecting healthy waters,
- Reducing new pollution, and
- Enhancing the resiliency of watersheds.
EPA also indicates in the draft strategy that it intends to strengthen the NPDES program to significantly reduce pollution entering U.S. waters and plans a proposed rule to streamline the regulatory authority to designate an animal feeding operation as a concentrated animal feeding operation, or CAFO. The document also said EPA would promote green infrastructure more broadly in a variety of ways. Among other things, the agency would ensure that municipal separate storm sewer system permits use cost-effective green infrastructure approaches, include green infrastructure in long-term control plans for combined sewer overflows, and consider incorporating green infrastructure alternatives in enforcement orders and consent decrees. EPA also plans to develop requirements for publicly owned treatment works to protect the public and the environment from the harmful effects of sanitary sewer overflows and the release of partially treated wastewater from treatment facilities Another effort would expand municipal stormwater permitting coverage to currently unregulated areas and establish performance standards for stormwater discharges from newly developed and redeveloped sites that result in reduced discharges of pollutants.