Pennsylvania's Stormwater Regulations

Changes to the landscape affect nearby waterways – and are therefore regulated under the federal Clean Water Act and various state laws.

SWM Regs in PA

Any development activity that changes the surface features of land also affects what happens when precipitation occurs. The result can have an impact on the chemical, physical and/or biological properties of the streams, rivers, and lakes that ultimately receive the runoff. In order to protect water quality, such development activities are regulated under the federal Clean Water Act, as well as Pennsylvania’s Clean Streams Law and the Pennsylvania Storm Water Management Act.

The Pennsylvania Storm Water Management Act of 1978 (more commonly known as Act 167) provides the legislative basis for stormwater management. It requires that counties within designated watersheds develop stormwater management plans, and that each affected municipality adopt specific stormwater ordinances to implement their respective Act 167 plan. Pennsylvania has 2566 municipalities distributed across 376 designated stormwater management watersheds, and each of these localities as its own set of natural, social, and cultural features. This unique “sharing” of power and authority between levels of government was designed to provide maximum flexibility to address the specific characteristics of each watershed.

So, what does this all mean? Permits are required for MS4 communities, construction activities, and industrial facilities, but the last line of defense in stormwater management can be found in the local ordinances established by individual municipalities, whether they are an MS4 or not. Land development activities which alter the character of landscape are subject to state and federal laws and permit requirements, but it is the local zoning and ordinances that ultimately make the difference in minimizing the adverse effects of stormwater runoff.


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