San Diego Water Board Approves Orange County Water Quality Control Plan for South OC

By on July 9, 2018

The San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board accepted an Orange County Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP)) for the San Juan Watershed Management Area (SJWMA) in south Orange County on June 20 for the purpose of reducing the effects of storm water pollution and related public health risks. The WQIP will also improve water quality in waterways and coastal areas popular with tourists and local residents.

The WQIP is mandated under the Regional Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System Permit (i.e. the Regional MS4 Permit), which regulates storm water discharges in San Diego County as well as in parts of south Orange County and southwest Riverside County. But the WQIP, and its partnering agencies — Orange County, Orange County Flood Control and the Cities of Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente and San Juan Capistrano — in the watershed plan, are approaching improvements to water quality from a broader perspective.

The successful implementation of this plan will not only benefit our environment, resulting in cleaner inland and coastal waters, but (will) also enhance the tourist economy in southern Orange County, which can exceed nearly $10 billion annually,” said San Diego Water Board Executive Officer David Gibson. “Acceptance of this plan is a major milestone in the San Diego Water Board’s efforts to reduce the effects of storm water pollution and achieve improvements in the water quality of inland surface waters, bays, estuaries and coastal waters within the San Diego Region.”

The Orange County WQIP addresses factors that compromise the condition of the receiving water. The plan focuses on not only or mainly the individual water quality constituents but also those that closely relate to beneficial uses. THE WQIP includes strategies to control and abate human waste sources, rehabilitating 23,000 lineal feet of inland streams and eliminating unnatural dry weather flows such as over irrigation from urban environments into creeks. Priorities include bacteria health risk at beaches, improving natural water flows, restoring natural water balance and physical habitat to improve biology/ecology and chemical qualities and the restoration of beneficial uses in inland receiving waters.

“Through our Practical Vision, the Water Board has found ways like the Water Quality Improvement Plan to improve the effectiveness of storm water and other programs and achieve measurable improvements in water quality in our creeks and beaches,” Gibson said.  ‘Since the Clean Water Act was adopted with mandates from storm water quality protection, we’ve spent 25 years developing tools to manage storm water as a flood hazard, source of pollution and as a resource in an ever-drier state. What has been lacking has been a strategic watershed approach with local buy-in and community support to put all the technical pieces together.”

The approved WQIP also implements the optional pathway to compliance with receiving water prohibitions and limitations allowed under the Regional MS4 Permit, provision B.3.c. The optional pathway specifically includes conditions that permitted municipalities must fully implement, over a period of time, including a rigorous and transparent set of strategies in compliance with a specific set of pollutant combinations in the water body during specific dry and/or wet weather conditions.

The optional pathway to compliance is a first for a WQIP that the San Diego Water Board has accepted.

The WQIP will be available for public review on the San Diego Water Board website until the Certified Plan is submitted and posted. Any person wishing to contest this San Diego Water Board action to accept the WQIP Plan may petition the State Water Resources Control Board to review the action in accordance with Water Code section 13320 and California Code of Regulations (CCR), title 23, section 2050, et seq. The State Water Resources Control Board must receive the petition by 5:00 p.m. within 30 days after the date of this action except if the thirtieth day falls on a Saturday, Sunday or holiday, the petition must be received no later than 5:00 p.m. on the first business day following.

For any questions or comments on this matter, please contact Erica Ryan at: 619-521-8051 or by e-mail at