Low Impact Development’s Supersized Stamp on California Storm Water Regulation


Without much fanfare, low impact development (“LID”) practices have become a dominant trend in federal and California storm water regulation. The California State Water Resources Control Board (“State Board”) and the Regional Water Quality Control Boards (“Regional Boards”) have adopted groundbreaking and influential LID requirements mandating action throughout California. In addition, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has reaffirmed its commitment to LID in a series of guidance documents issued in July, 2012. These actions indicate that LID practices will increasingly drive site design for real estate development as well as at industrial facilities. The rapid adoption of LID concepts into regulatory requirements demands that all stormwater dischargers become familiar with the obstacles and opportunities associated with LID.

LID approaches vary so dramatically from prior approaches to storm water management that every site discharging storm water will require guidance. Instead of using concrete channels to direct runoff to point sources, LID practices attempt to mimic a site’s predevelopment hydrology. LID practices include filtering storm water with natural media, detaining storm water for infiltration into the ground, and retaining water onsite for reuse. These techniques are designed to protect water quality by controlling runoff volume, peak runoff rate, and the duration of runoff flows, while potentially offering cost savings for developers and industry. Because these requirements represent significant departures from the traditional storm water management paradigm, they will require new approaches to planning physical infrastructure for industrial facilities and large-scale construction projects.

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