In 1972, Congress passed the Federal Water Pollution Control Act (FWPCA), also known as the Clean Water Act (CWA), to restore and maintain the quality of the nation’s waterways.  The ultimate goal was to make sure that rivers and streams were fishable, swimmable, and drinkable.
The Clean Water Act authorizes the EPA and states, when delegated the authority by the EPA, to regulate point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program.  So-called "point sources" are generated from a variety of municipal and industrial operations, including treated wastewater, process water, cooling water, and storm water runoff from drainage systems.  The NPDES Phase I Storm Water Program, in place since 1990, regulates cities and counties with populations of 100,000 or more that operate a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4), specific industrial operations (as defined at 40 CFR 122.26(b)(14)), and construction activities that disturb 5 or more acres of land.  The Phase II Storm Water Program became effective in March 2003.  It regulates MS4s located within "urbanized areas" as defined by the latest census from the U.S. Census Bureau and construction activities that disturb between 1 and 5 acres.
The City of Amarillo and the Texas Department of Transportation – District 4 Amarillo, as co-permittees, were issued the current MS4 Permit on May 31, 2006.  This Permit will expire at midnight, May 31, 2011.  The MS4 Permit is a permit to discharge under the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES).  The permit authorizes the City of Amarillo and the Texas Department of Transportation to discharge from the City’s MS4, including all areas located within the corporate boundary of the City of Amarillo, via the MS4 to various playa lakes, man-made reservoirs, and tributaries that eventually reach the Canadian River above Lake Meredith.

Under this permit the permittees must develop and implement a comprehensive Storm Water Management Plan (SWMP).  The SWMP must address, at a minimum, the following elements: 

  • Structural Controls
  • Areas of New Development and Significant Redevelopment
  • Roadways
  • Flood Control Projects
  • Pesticide, Herbicide, and Fertilizer Application
  • Illicit Discharges and Improper Disposal
  • Spill Prevention and Response
  • Industrial & High Risk Runoff
  • Construction Site Runoff
  • Public Education
  • Monitoring and Screening Programs