Performance Measures for Annual WQIP Reporting: Good Metrics Increase Focus, Credit and Tracking
As municipal permits begin to require definitive evidence of implementation progress, new approaches that focus on performance metrics offer opportunities that are of interest to permittees and regulators alike. Permittees including San Diego and Orange County are exploring the value of performance metrics for planning and reporting Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP) implementation progress. A new 5-year research agenda approved by the Southern California Stormwater Monitoring Coalition and discussions at the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board regarding upcoming revisions to the region’s Phase I municipal permits demonstrate the timely nature of this topic. Successful efforts in Northern California and other regions of the USA demonstrate the potential for this approach to focus and accelerate progress.
Performance measures, when structured in a pragmatic framework can create a performance-driven approach to implementing water quality plans like the WQIPs. In Southern California, Orange County and County of San Diego are developing tools from the Open Standards for the Practice of Conservation (https://cmp-openstandards.org/), an internationally recognized method for systematically planning, implementing, and monitoring progress toward desired outcomes, to understand what works, what does not, and how to adaptively manage environmental programs.
This technical session will introduce attendees to the primary benefits of this performance-driven implementation and reporting approach, describe key components, and share results from other watersheds. Primary benefits of this approach include:
- All parties focus on what matters, orienting them to effective action , and streamlining report preparation and review
- Permittees focus on implementation with confidence that their work will earn credit from regulators
- Permittees receive clear signals of what is valuable from regulators; allowing them to prioritize cost-effective projects with limited funding
- Regulators get clear annual reports and reasonable trackability of results in in a consistent framework.
Session attendees will also learn about key components of the Conservation Standards framework. Key components include a structure of metrics, a map of essential cause and effect relationships and clear reporting dashboards. These components help permittees demonstrate how their actions lead to intermediate results, and eventually to long-term desired outcomes. Sample metrics currently being explored in Southern California include targeted area treated, dry weather flow volume reduced and length of stream channel matching an expected physical habitat index score.
Session attendees will also learn about results from watersheds where performance-driven implementation has been used. For instance, Maryland has focused on known linkages between treated impervious surface area and pollutant load reduction which has led to identification of an inspiring performance metric. This has enabled alternative procurement that harnessed the private sector to accelerate implementation and reduce per acre costs by more than 60 percent. In Northern California, the Lake Clarity Crediting Program connects on-the-ground activities like street sweeping and erosion control projects to quantifiable pollutant reductions in the form of consistently calculated credits for sediment and nutrient load reductions. This program resulted in a 10% sediment load reduction within its first 5-year permit term (ending 2016), and the program continues to register and track hundreds of credits annually (https://clarity.laketahoeinfo.org/Results/Detail/UrbanUplands).
The attendees will be engaged with prepared interaction cues that are peppered throughout the presentation. These cues will help attendees envision a future where the vision provided in San Diego-region WQIPs is translated to effective action that can protect and improve the waters of California.