Water Quality Regulation
The Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly referred to as the Clean Water Act (CWA) was passed in 1972 and amended in 1977, and is the foundation for surface water quality protection in the United States. The CWA was enacted to restore and maintain the chemical, physical, and biological characteristics of the nation’s waters. In brief, the CWA requires states to set standards for surface water quality and requires public and private facilities to acquire permits for discharging wastewater.
At the federal level, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is responsible for administering the water quality standards outlined in the CWA. At the state level, the EPA delegates water quality management to a specific state environmental agency. In Texas, it is the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). The TCEQ is responsible for establishing water quality standards, planning how water quality will be managed, issuing permits for point source dischargers, and abating all types of nonpoint source pollution except those from agricultural and silvicultural (forestry) sources.
In 1991, the Texas Legislature delegated some water quality authority to the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board (TSSWCB). The TSSWCB is responsible for administering Texas’ soil and water conservation law and for managing programs for the prevention and abatement of agricultural and silvicultural nonpoint source pollution.
Water Quality Impairments
According to the 2022 Texas Integrated Report of Surface Water Quality, 1051 impairments are listed in Texas. Of these, approximately one-third of the impairments are due to excessive bacteria. As of spring 2022, there have been 64 completed TMDLs for and there are currently 34 watersheds in Texas where TMDLs are being implemented.
Restoring and Protecting Watersheds
The CWA requires the development of a Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) for waters on the 303(d) List within 13 years of being listed. If the state does not develop a TMDL within the required time limit, the EPA will. A TMDL is a calculation of the pollutant reductions necessary to restore the impaired water body to its designated use(s).
In some watersheds, the development and implementation of a Watershed Protection Plan (WPP) may be a more viable approach to achieving the restoration of water quality than the establishment of a TMDL. A WPP is a community-driven framework that uses the watershed approach to solve complex water quality problems in a watershed. WPPs are developed and managed through partnerships among federal and state agencies and local groups and organizations. They rely heavily on stakeholder involvement at the local level.
Bacterial impairments come from a variety of sources and everyone can help reduce the bacteria levels in Texas waterways by adopting specific BMPs relative to their production system. The Lone Star Healthy Streams program is here to assist landowners in achieving the worthy goal of keeping Texas waters safe and clean.
“Funding for this project is provided through a Clean Water Act Section 319 Nonpoint Source Grant from the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board and the U.S Environmental Protection Agency.”