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State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection-Water Quality Management Planning
State of New Jersey Department of Environmental Protection
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Water Quality
Management Planning

photoDEP’s Water Quality Management Planning program originates from the Federal Water Pollution Control Act, commonly referred to as the Clean Water  Act (33 U.S.C 1251 et seq.).  Sections 201, 208, and 303 of the Clean Water Act provided a framework for water quality planning in the State.

Section 201 required the preparation of 201 Facilities Plans prior to distribution of federal grants for wastewater facilities.  The plans address alternatives and environmental impacts.  The Facilities Plans identify sewer service areas and areas where sewer service is inappropriate due to environmental sensitivity.  While 201 Facilities Planning has been phased out, the planning related sections of the Facilities Plans approved by the DEP and EPA after May 1975 were officially incorporated into the areawide Water Quality Management Plans through adoption of the Statewide Water Quality Management Plan.

The basin planning program, Section 303(e), required the State to prepare water quality plans for the entire State with an emphasis on pollutants from point sources.  They specify the amount of pollutants which may be discharged from point sources while maintaining water quality standards.  The plans coordinate the State’s enforcement, discharge permit, and 201 Constructions grants programs.

Section 208 of the Clean Water Act required the Governor to designate agencies to prepare areawide waste treatment management plans.  In 1975, EPA merged the requirements of Sections 303 and 208 and subsequently the areawide waste treatment plans became known as the areawide Water Quality Management Plans (commonly referred to as “208 Plans”).


The areawide planning program is comprehensive in scope.  It examines all potential sources and types of water pollution within a particular area and seeks to develop mechanisms for controlling those pollutant sources.  For the purpose of areawide planning, the State was divided into twelve study areas.  An areawide plan for each area was completed by either the Department or by sub-state agencies (termed “designated planning agencies”).  Each of the WQM Plans was required, by Federal and State mandate, to address certain issues including:  description of planning boundaries, water quality assessment, inventories and projections, nonpoint source assessment, water quality standards, total maximum daily loads, point source load allocations, municipal and industrial waste treatment systems needs, nonpoint sources control needs, target abatement dates, regulatory programs, management agencies, and an assessment of impacts of carrying out the plan.  Each of the Water Quality Management planning studies included public participation programs which allowed interested organizations, agencies and the general public to be involved throughout the course of planning.  Public participation was conducted through Policy Advisory Committees, Technical Advisory Committees, and other groups.  By 1980 all twelve WQM Plans had received Governor and EPA approval.

In 1977, the State enacted the Water Quality Planning Act (N.J.S.A. 58:11A-1 et seq.) and the Water Pollution Control Act (N.J.S.A. 58:10A-1 et seq.).  The Water Quality Planning Act confirmed the designation of the Planning areas and designated planning agencies under Section 208 of the Clean Water Act.

Both Federal and State law require the Department to have a “continuing planning process” (CPP) for water quality management.  The CPP is the management approach used by the Department for carrying out the water quality management requirements of the federal Clean Water Act, the federal Water Quality Planning and Management Regulations (40 CFR 130), the New Jersey Water Quality Planning Act, the New Jersey Water Pollution Control Act, the County Environmental Health Act (N.J.S.A. 26:3A2-21 et seq.), and the Department of Environmental Protection Act of 1970 (N.J.S.A. 13-1D et seq.).

The Department issued a comprehensive description of its CPP in 1976.  In 1983, due to extensive changes in the Department’s water quality management program and at the request of the EPA, work began to update the CPP.  The CPP is composed of the Statewide WQM Plan and Water Quality Management Planning rules (N.J.A.C. 7:15).  In 1984 the Department adopted its Water Quality Management and Planning Implementation rules (N.J.A.C. 7:15).  The initial Statewide Water Quality Management Plan was adopted in 1985.

The Statewide Water Quality Management Plan contains the written strategies and policies of the CPP and established the foundation for unifying the wastewater facilities planning (201), basin planning (303(e)), and areawide planning (208) programs into a cohesive Statewide program.  While the programs have the same ultimate purpose, the protection of water quality, they differ in geographic scope, specific subject matter, and level of detail.  In addition to addressing federal requirements, the three programs serve to satisfy State requirements for water quality planning as specified in the Water Quality Planning Act.

A WQM Plan amendment is the formal procedure by which provisions of the areawide Water Quality Management Plans may be changed.  A revision is similarly a formal, but less extensive public, process allowed for limited types of proposals.  One type of amendment adopts a Wastewater Management Plan (WMP).  Unlike the site-specific amendments which only address an individual project proposal, the WMPs were prepared on a municipal, regional or county planning area basis.  The 1985 Statewide WQM Plan established the policy regarding development and implementation of WMPs.  WMPs were intended to provide either supplemental planning to those areas where approved 201 Facilities Plans existed, or new wastewater planning where there were no plans.  WMPs were intended to provide long term continuity in the planning and regulation of wastewater treatment systems.  By the end of 1986 approximately 75 municipalities were covered by adopted WMPs.  The WMP requirements were adopted as part of 1989 readoption of the Water Quality Management Planning rules (N.J.A.C. 7:15).

The 1989 rules established the identification of the responsible WMP entities.  Designated planning agencies were given WMP responsibility if they requested the responsibility.  For areas with no designated planning agency, or where the designated agency declined responsibility (i.e. DVRPC), the following order of WMP responsibility was established: Passaic Valley Sewerage Commissioners, sewerage authorities and municipal authorities, joint meetings, and finally municipalities.  The rules established a staggered schedule by which WMPs for the entire State were to be submitted by the end of 1994.  WMPs were to be updated every six years, coinciding with the six year cycle for municipal master plan updates.  By mid-2005 only approximately 83 municipalities had WMPs in compliance with the rules.

In 2000 the Governor issued Executive Order 109 (EO-109 (2000)) which directed the Department to determine alternatives analyses which were to be completed prior to any final decision on a WMP or amendment to a WMP.  Such analysis were to include, but not be limited to, an evaluation of depletive and consumptive water use, detailed land use, environmental build-out, and pollutant loading.

In 2008 the Water Quality Management Planning rules (N.J.A.C. 7:15) were readopted with amendments.  The rule amendments addressed many comments received during the extensive public outreach that was conducted prior to the rule proposal.  Several changes were made to the rule including counties became the responsible WMP agencies, the rules codified the requirements of EO-109, and the rule contained defined standards to be achieved (as requested by the development community).  The readopted rules provide an ongoing means to implement the CPP required under the Federal Clean Water Act and State law through the areawide Water Quality Management Planning process.  As part of this process, the current areawide WQM plans are amended through updated WMPs to ensure that Water Quality Management Plans are based on and integrate the most current land use and water resource planning. By early 2012 approximately 167 municipalities were covered by WMPs in compliance with the rules.

In 2010, Commissioner Martin issued Administrative Order 2010-03 which, among other directives, extended the deadline for all WMP agencies to submit a WMP, directed the Department to hold public meetings to discuss the draft sewer service areas being developed, and to respond to public inquiries regarding the draft sewer service areas.

In 2012, P.L. 2011, c.203 was enacted which modified the Water Quality Management Planning program. Most importantly, it allows WMP agencies to bifurcate the submittal of their WMP by requiring that at least that portion of a WMP designating a sewer service are compliant with the Department’s regulatory criteria be submitted within 180 days of enactment. Upon such a submittal, the Department would review applications for site specific amendments, which were not previously permitted where WMPs were out of date, under the Water Quality Management Planning rules.

For additional information on Water Quality Management Planning, please contact us.



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Last Updated: July 31, 2014