Wastewater utilities are pleased the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has released a fleshed-out framework to give local governments more flexibility in managing stormwater runoff and wastewater.

The Integrated Municipal Stormwater and Wastewater Planning Approach Framework, released on June 12, provides more details and revisions to a draft (ENR 6/11/12 p. 12) circulated by EPA in October at the request of the U.S. Conference of Mayors and other groups.

According to the Water Environment Federation, many of the details and changes in the June document reflect input from a series of public meetings held in recent months between EPA and city officials and utilities. The changes include a new plan element on adaptive management approaches, more detailed information on cost/affordability and a better explanation of the balance between permitting and enforcement.

EPA stresses that the agency will continue to enforce the Clean Water Act and take action against municipalities that violate the law but also notes that some integrated plans could be managed through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting process. The integrated approach does not change existing regulatory standards that protect public health and water quality, EPA says.

Supporters of the integrated approach say the framework provides important flexibilities to pursue locally driven, innovative, cost-saving solutions—including green infrastructure—that are crucial in cash-strapped cities.

"This is a strong demonstration that EPA is listening" to the concerns of cities and utilities, says Adam Krantz, managing director of government and public affairs for the National Association Clean Water Agencies, Washington, D.C.