With recent audits of municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4) permits taking place, some cities, counties and departments of transportation have found themselves in need of assistance with this broad and complex permit.

Smaller cities with limited staff typically do not have a dedicated stormwater manager, and that's where consultants with an MS4 compliance background can come in to assist. However, the permit doesn't just require technical engineering knowledge — planners have a role to play, too. The first major planning activity of an MS4 permit is writing a stormwater management plan, which states the goals of the permit and identifies the actions, policies and programs the permittee will implement to meet those goals. From there, the planner can assist with implementation by writing draft city ordinances, aiding in public education and involvement around stormwater, and collaboratively working with other departments to efficiently review and approve stormwater improvements.

With competing priorities and increasing responsibilities, city staff members often cannot dedicate the resources and attention necessary for stormwater management. Planners can especially feel like this particular responsibility is out of their hands since most engineering or public works departments are responsible for the MS4 permit. However, being found to be in noncompliance with an MS4 permit brings risks to the entire city, not just one department, and can include fines or a lawsuit for violating the Clean Water Act. To avoid these issues and stay in compliance, planners must be involved with stormwater management — after all, it is a planner’s duty to protect the health, safety and welfare of the public, and having clean water is necessary for that.

When a permittee recognizes the importance of the MS4 permit but lacks the necessary staff or knowledge, working with a consultant who can bring both an engineering and planning perspective can help bridge the gap between different departments and goals. 


Explore how a planner can improve the implementation of stormwater management so you can stay in compliance with your MS4 permit.

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Kylie Clark is an urban planner focused on comprehensive water infrastructure planning, holistic watershed management and sustainable land use. She collaborates with various disciplines to develop short- and long-term solutions to improve stormwater policies, programs and assets. Kylie strives to think outside the box to provide different perspectives and alternatives that enhance traditional engineering practices. Her work has focused on stormwater policy and criteria, grant writing, MS4 permitting and green infrastructure planning from the project level to the watershed scale.