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Best management practice for water pollution

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A retention pond for treatment of urban runoff (stormwater).

Best management practices (BMPs) is a term used in the United States and Canada to describe a type of water pollution control. Historically the term has referred to auxiliary pollution controls in the fields of industrial wastewater control and municipal sewage control, while in stormwater management (both urban and rural) and wetland management, BMPs may refer to a principal control or treatment technique as well.


Beginning in the 20th century, designers of industrial and municipal sewage pollution controls typically utilized engineered systems (e.g. filters, clarifiers, biological reactors) to provide the central components of pollution control systems, and used the term "BMPs" to describe the supporting functions for these systems, such as operator training and equipment maintenance.

Stormwater management, as a specialized area within the field of environmental engineering, emerged later in the 20th century, and some practitioners have used the term BMP to describe both structural or engineered control devices and systems (e.g. retention ponds) to treat polluted stormwater, as well as operational or procedural practices (e.g. minimizing use of chemical fertilizers and pesticides). Other practitioners prefer to use the term Stormwater control measure, due to the varied definitions of the term "BMP" and its use in non-stormwater practice.[1]

U.S. Clean Water Act References to "BMP"[edit]

Congress referred to BMP in several sections of the U.S. Clean Water Act (CWA) but did not define the term.

  • The 1977 CWA used the term in describing the areawide waste treatment planning program[2] and in procedures for controlling toxic pollutants associated with industrial discharges.[3] The "Section 404" program, which covers dredge and fill permits, refers to BMPs in one of the enforcement exemptions.[4]
  • References to stormwater BMPs first appear in the 1987 amendment to the CWA in describing the Nonpoint Source Management Demonstration Program.[5]
  • Another stormwater BMP reference was added in 2001 with the authorization for a Wet Weather Watershed Pilot Project program.[6]

EPA definitions[edit]

In implementing the CWA, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) defined BMP in the federal wastewater permit regulations, initially to refer to auxiliary procedures for industrial wastewater controls.

...schedules of activities, prohibitions of practices, maintenance procedures, and other management practices to prevent or reduce the pollution of waters of the United States, BMPs also include treatment requirements, operating procedures, and practices to control plant site runoff, spillage or leaks, sludge or waste disposal, or drainage from raw material storage.[7]

Later the Agency added a reference to stormwater management BMPs.

...each NPDES permit shall include conditions meeting the following requirements when applicable... (k) Best management practices (BMPs) to control or abate the discharge of pollutants when: ... (2) Authorized under section 402(p) of the CWA for the control of storm water discharges...[8]

Industrial wastewater BMPs[edit]

Industrial wastewater BMPs are considered an adjunct to engineered treatment systems. Typical BMPs include operator training, maintenance practices, and spill control procedures for treatment chemicals.[9] There are also many BMPs available which are specific to particular industrial processes, for example:

  • source reduction practices in metal finishing industries (e.g. substituting less toxic solvents or using water-based cleaners);
  • in the chemical industry, capturing equipment washdown waters for recycle/reuse at various process stages;
  • in the paper industry, using process control monitoring to optimize bleaching processes, and reduce the overall amount of bleach used.[10]

Stormwater management BMPs[edit]

Stormwater management BMPs are control measures taken to mitigate changes to both quantity and quality of urban runoff caused through changes to land use. Generally BMPs focus on water quality problems caused by increased impervious surfaces from land development.[11] BMPs are designed to reduce stormwater volume, peak flows, and/or nonpoint source pollution through evapotranspiration, infiltration, detention, and filtration or biological and chemical actions.[12] BMPs also can improve receiving-water quality by extending the duration of outflows in comparison to inflow duration (known as hydrograph extension), which dilutes the stormwater discharged into a larger volume of upstream flow.[13][14]Although structural BMPs can be effective for reducing stormwater loads to receiving waters,[15][16][17] studies indicate that they cannot improve in-stream water quality where receiving-water quality is poor.[17][18][19]

Stormwater BMPs can be classified as "structural" (i.e., devices installed or constructed on a site such as silt fences, rock filter dams, fiber rolls (also called erosion control logs or excelsior wattles), sediment traps and numerous other proprietary products) or "non-structural" (procedures, such as modified landscaping practices, soil disturbing activity scheduling, or street sweeping). There are a variety of BMPs available; selection typically depends on site characteristics and pollutant removal objectives. EPA has published a series of stormwater BMP fact sheets for use by local governments, builders and property owners.[20]

Stormwater management BMPs can be also categorized into four basic types:

  1. Storage practices: ponds; recovery; green infrastructure design.
  2. Vegetative practices: buffers; channels; green roofs; wetlands; functional art;[further explanation needed] stormwater wetland park design; wetland park engineering & design.
  3. Filtration/Infiltration practices: filtering; infiltration; rain gardens; porous pavement; civic infrastructure and design; functional stormwater design.
  4. Water sensitive development: better site design (revisions of local land development rules);[21] open space site design; low impact development.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ National Research Council, Committee on Reducing Stormwater Discharge Contributions to Water Pollution (2009). "5. Stormwater Management Approaches". Urban Stormwater Management in the United States. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. ISBN 978-0-309-12540-6.
  2. ^ United States. Clean Water Act of 1977, Pub.L. 95-217, December 27, 1977. Sections 208 (b), (i) and (j), 33 U.S.C. § 1288.
  3. ^ CWA sec. 304(e), 33 U.S.C. § 1314(e).
  4. ^ CWA sec. 404(f), 33 U.S.C. § 1344.
  5. ^ Water Quality Act of 1987, Pub.L. 100-4, February 4, 1987. CWA sec. 319(a),(b),(h),(l), & (m), 33 U.S.C. § 1329.
  6. ^ Wet Weather Water Quality Act of 2000, December 21, 2000. Added by the Miscellaneous Appropriations Act, 2001 (114 Stat. 2763A–225), as enacted into law by section 1(a)(6) of Pub.L. 106–554 (114 Stat. 2763). Amended CWA sec.121(a)(2), 33 U.S.C. § 1274.
  7. ^ U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), Washington, D.C. "EPA Administered Permit Programs: The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System." Code of Federal Regulations, 40 CFR 122.2.
  8. ^ EPA. 40 CFR 122.44.
  9. ^ For example: Best Management Practices and Spill Response: Guidance Document (PDF) (Report). Edmonton, AB: Alberta Environmental Protection. July 1994.
  10. ^ "Ch. 3. Industry-Specific Best Management Practices" (PDF). Guidance Manual for Developing Best Management Practices (BMP) (Report). EPA. October 1993. EPA-833-B-93-004.
  11. ^ National Research Council, Committee on Reducing Stormwater Discharge Contributions to Water Pollution (2009). "3. Hydrologic, Geomorphic, and Biological Effects of Urbanization on Watersheds". Urban Stormwater Management in the United States. Washington, D.C.: National Academies Press. ISBN 978-0-309-12540-6.
  12. ^ Debo, Thomas N.; Reese, Andrew J. (2003). Municipal Stormwater Management (2nd ed.). Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press. ISBN 1-56670-584-3.
  13. ^ Granato, G.E. (2014). "Statistics for stochastic modeling of volume reduction, hydrograph extension, and water-quality treatment by structural stormwater runoff best management practices (BMPs)". Scientific Investigations Report (Report). U.S. Geological Survey. doi:10.3133/sir20145037. Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5037.
  14. ^ Granato, G.E.; Spaetzel, A.B.; Medalie, L. (2021). Statistics for simulating structural stormwater runoff best management practices (BMPs) with the Stochastic Empirical Loading and Dilution Model (SELDM) (Report). U.S. Geological Survey. doi:10.3133/sir20205136. Scientific Investigations Report 2020–5136.
  15. ^ Granato, G.E., and Jones, S.C., 2017, Estimating Total Maximum Daily Loads with the Stochastic Empirical Loading and Dilution Model: Transportation Research Record, Journal of the Transportation Research Board, v. 2638, p. 104-112, https://doi.org/10.3141/2638-12
  16. ^ Granato, G.E.; Friesz, P.J. (2021). "Approaches for assessing long-term annual yields of highway and urban runoff in selected areas of California with the Stochastic Empirical Loading and Dilution Model (SELDM)". Scientific Investigations Report (Report). U.S. Geological Survey. doi:10.3133/sir20215043. Scientific Investigations Report 2021–5043.
  17. ^ a b >Granato, G.E.; Spaetzel, A.B.; Jeznach, L.C. (2023). "Approaches for assessing flows, concentrations, and loads of highway and urban runoff and receiving-stream stormwater in southern New England with the Stochastic Empirical Loading and Dilution Model (SELDM)". Scientific Investigations Report (Report). U.S. Geological Survey. doi:10.3133/sir20235087. Scientific Investigations Report 2023–5087.
  18. ^ Granato, G.E., and Jones, S.C., 2017, Estimating risks for water-quality exceedances of total-copper from highway and urban runoff under predevelopment and current conditions with the Stochastic Empirical Loading and Dilution Model (SELDM): in Proceedings of the 2017 World Environmental & Water Resources Congress, Sacramento, CA, May 21-25, 2017, Reston, VA, American Society of Civil Engineers, 15 p. http://ascelibrary.org/doi/abs/10.1061/9780784480601.028
  19. ^ Jeznach, L.C., and Granato, G.E., 2020, Comparison of SELDM simulated total-phosphorus concentrations with ecological impervious-area criteria: Journal of Environmental Engineering: v. 146, No. 8, 10 p. https://doi.org/10.1061/(ASCE)EE.1943-7870.0001763
  20. ^ "National Menu of Best Management Practices (BMPs) for Stormwater". National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System. EPA. 2016.
  21. ^ Swann, Chris (2016). Better Site Design: A Handbook for Changing Development Rules in Your Community (Part 1) (Report). Ellicott City, MD: Center for Watershed Protection. Version 1.0.1.

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