Green Infrastructure Coalition, A project of the Environment Council of RI
Green Infrastructure Coalition

Laws, Ordinances and Regulations

These are the umbrella that protect water quality. A check list of the mechanics of the umbrella follows:

The federal water law, known formally as the Water Pollution Control Act of 1948, has been amended several times. The 1972 amendments were dubbed the Clean Water Act and form the frame to which state laws and town ordinances must conform. The U. S. EPA and the Army Corps of Engineers are responsible for implementation. Section 319 of the CWA pertains to stormwater.

RI DEM is delegated by the U. S. EPA to implement the Clean Water Act in Rhode Island, whereas, in Massachusetts, EPA with all its other duties regulates water in our neighboring state. Rhode Island General Law authorizes the agencies, Department of Environmental Management (DEM) and Coastal Resources Management Council (CRMC), to implement the Clean Water Act.

Although you can slog through the laws at Title 33 of the U.S. Code or Title 2 or 46 of the Rhode Island General Laws, comprehensible information about stormwater is accessible through DEM website.

Regulations fill in the details of articulating the legislative ribs. State and federal agencies create regulations through a process — APA/ Administrative Procedures Act — of notices and public hearings. At the federal level, a daily government publication called The Federal Register lists all the regulatory action. At the state level, agencies are required to announce proposed changes in regulations and have comment periods for public response. Public hearings or opportunities for comment are held on many permits affecting stormwater.

DEM’s water quality and stormwater permitting program has the acronym RIPDES, localizing the National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES). To receive notice of draft permit actions subscribe to the RIPDES Program Email listserve. DEM also administers The RI Stormwater Design and Installation Standards Manual (sometimes referred to as the RI Stormwater Manual) which was developed as a collaborative effort between RIDEM, CRMC and others.

CRMC, among its many functions, oversees stormwater in the coastal zone and in freshwater wetlands adjacent to the coastal zone. See Storm Water Management in the RI Coastal Zone for more information.

Ordinances are municipal laws. In Rhode Island, most towns have laws or other enforceable policy (e.g., regulations and standards) that are intended to abate water pollution through soil erosion and sediment control, illicit discharge detection and elimination, and post-construction stormwater management. These enforceable policies are required in the RIPDES MS4 jurisdiction. For sample ordinances see the State Innovation Exchange website. For ordinance language specific to the maintenance of BMPs see the EPA Stormwater Control Operation & Maintenance web pages. The LID Site Planning and Design Guidance for Communities has model ordinances specifically related to stormwater.

Guidance are reports on research that may suggest best practice but does not have the force of law behind it. For example the RI Stormwater Solutions (URI), and LEEDS certification program of U. S. Green Building Council provide guidance.

Guidance and education come from the federal Department of Agriculture’s Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) that provides technical assistance on stormwater runoff in various settings. It provides educational resources that can be found on the internet. Through USDA Co-op Extension, University of RI provides technical support to municipalities on stormwater, as do the Conservation Districts. Visit the URI Stormwater Solutions Website for more information.

Green Buildings Act: Public Law No. 2009-212 Title 37 of the R.I. General Laws Public Property & Works Ā§37-24, et. seq. The Green Buildings Act requires that all State of Rhode Island new construction projects over 5,000 gsf. and renovation projects over 10,000 gsf., including projects of all Rhode Island State Agencies and Cities & Towns, that have not entered the design phase prior to Jan. 1, 2010, be designed & constructed using an approved high performance green building standard. Standards include LEED, Green Globes, CHIPS and the 2012 International Green Construction Code (IgCC). Many areas within these high performance green building standards require elements of green infrastructure or use of other low impact development techniques in order to help to achieve compliance.

Visit the State of Rhode Island Building Code Commission website for full Rules and Regulations, required documentation and other details.


Municipal efforts: Middletown has approved a resolution to do engineering studies and cost analysis aimed at drafting a formal storm water utility district ordinanceĀ  with potential implementation as soon as fiscal year 2018.