News Feature | October 16, 2019

L.A. County Cities Win Legal Fight Against Stormwater Rules

Peter Chawaga - editor

By Peter Chawaga


The most populous county in the U.S. is in the middle of a conflict around watershed management. And those opposed to stricter regulations have just received a boost in court.

“A superior court judge recently struck down certain requirements by the Los Angeles Regional Water Quality Control Board that forced cities throughout the county to adopt costly watershed management programs, such as underground infiltration structures for stormwater runoff, that could have cost cities billions of dollars,” according to the Daily Breeze.

The conflict between the water control board and city officials who don’t want compliance costs to rise has been ongoing since at least 2012, when the board launched what is called an “MS4 permit.” This permit introduced new stormwater regulations that would reportedly cost cities within the county billions of dollars in underground infiltration and related costs to meet.

“An estimate, prepared by the county in 2015, found that Los Angeles County cities would be required to spend roughly $20 billion over 20 years in order to comply with new stormwater rules, although some of those estimates have been called into question,” per the Daily Breeze.

Following the introduction of MS4, several cities within the county sued the board. Now, a local superior court judge has ruled that the board did not adequately consider the overall costs it introduced and will have a limited time to address the judge’s concerns.

The board may decide to appeal that decision, which would require Los Angeles County cities to operate under a 2001 permit. Or it might issue a new version of the MS4 permit in the next few months. But, for now, the board believes that cities will have to continue operating under MS4 as it stands.

“The board will not lower the pollution limits required under the permit, said Renee Purdy, executive officer of the L.A. Regional Water Quality Control Board,” the Daily Breeze reported. “But the board could consider extending the deadline for compliance. That, Purdy said, would give cities more time to find cost-effective ways to reach acceptable pollution levels.”

While it’s unclear what exactly might change about the way Los Angeles County handles its stormwater, it is clear that this conflict is far from resolved. For one of the most highly-populated places on the planet, that means a big treatment question still hangs in the balance.

To read more about how municipalities handle their stormwater, visit Water Online’s Stormwater Management Solutions Center.