Taking South Orange County Water Quality Planning to the Next Level – Water Quality Improvement Plan 2.0
In 2013, the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board reissued and adopted a new Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4s) permit (Permit) for the San Diego region including portions of South Orange County. The adoption of this Permit is intended to represent a shift from prescriptive, activity-based permit requirements to a strategic, outcome-driven approach focused on watershed-wide improvements through collaborative jurisdictional planning and implementation. Provision B of the Permit requires the phased development and implementation of Water Quality Improvement Plans (WQIP) for the region’s watersheds that are based on a systematic prioritization process that considers water quality conditions.
From prioritization through planning, monitoring, and adaptive management, south Orange County’s innovative and holistic approach to WQIP development is extending the three key themes identified in the Program’s 2014 Report of Waste Discharge report on the State of the Environment:
• Focus on priority areas and constituents rather than trying to monitor all constituents, potential issues, and locations
• Increase the integration of data from a wider range of sources
• Continue to evolve from a strictly discharge-specific approach to a risk-based prioritization approach
Establishing these themes as foundational to the WQIP, has led to much broader concept of “water quality condition” that more closely relate to beneficial uses rather than focusing only or mainly on the values of individual water quality constituents. This presentation will convey the unique process the Permittees have used to identify these conditions using index-based water quality scoring systems and geospatial tools, as well as the process to prioritize conditions recognizing the complex interrelationship of extant pollutants, stressors, and conditions to the restoration of beneficial uses. In recognition of this complexity, the prioritization process focused on identifying and addressing foundational relationships of conditions in order to have the most far-reaching positive reinforcement cycle and therefore reducing the degree of compensation needed to effect improvements at higher dependency levels. The presentation will outline the prioritization process resulting in the highest priority conditions identified in the south Orange County watersheds, for which the WQIP will be crafted around. Consistent with the conference theme, this presentation will also highlight how the more holistic watershed-scale approach facilitates a stronger relationship between the Plan and various ongoing and future integrated water management efforts, recognizing that efforts to effectively manage water resources for water supply in the region are highly interrelated.