Approved by the Energy, Environment, and Water Policy Committee on March 30, 2021
Approved by the Public Policy and Practice Committee on May 4, 2021
Adopted by the Board of Direction on July 16, 2021
The American Society of Civil Engineers (ASCE) supports efforts to mitigate pollution from non-point source (NPS) runoff into surface and ground water basins and recommends:
- Strengthened public education programs on non-point source pollution.
- The development of programmatic mechanisms to require mitigation of NPS impacts.
- Increased funding for research to evaluate the impacts of the pollution in surface water and groundwater.
- The Development of improved and sustainable best management practices (BMPs).
- Recognition that infrastructure construction, rehabilitation, and maintenance is an opportunity to reduce the impact of legacy NPS pollution.
EPA has identified non-point source pollution as the nation’s largest remaining source of water-quality problems. Non-point source pollution is caused by many sources, including agriculture, forestry, grazing, septic systems, mine runoff, boating and marinas, urban and road runoff, construction, physical changes to stream channels, and habitat degradation. Individuals in their daily activities also contribute to non-point source pollution problems. EPA has reported that agricultural and urban runoff are two of the leading contributors to non-point source pollution.
Addressing non-point source pollution requires a watershed approach that incorporates water quality and quantity to protect waters of the United States more effectively. The science and implementation of green infrastructure BMPs has advanced, and recent studies demonstrate the effectiveness of these approaches, but further research into their performance and longevity on a watershed basis is needed to bring better identify the associated economic and environmental impacts. ASCE has long been involved with advancing our understanding of green infrastructure BMPs and partnered with EPA in 1996 to develop the International Stormwater BMP Database. Unfortunately, federal funding was stopped in 2004 for this effort, even though much needs to be done to close the knowledge gap, reduce costs, and ensure sustainability of implementation.
Inadequate management practices that fail to prevent, eliminate, or reduce the effects of non-point source pollution significantly impact water quality and the ecosystem dependent upon it. Polluted waters eventually move through lakes and larger rivers and enter the estuaries and near-shore environments with increasing detrimental effects upon plant and animal life, as well as upon water supplies for human uses. Education is the first step in mitigating poor practices, followed by the establishment and implementation of BMPs.
Groundwater is an important component of water resources and may also be polluted by non-point sources. Protecting the quality of groundwater should be viewed with the same importance as surface water in the control of non-point source pollution.
Civil engineers play a major role in the design and construction of facilities and infrastructure that can eliminate, prevent, or reduce point- and non-point source pollution to our nation’s rivers, lakes, wetlands, ground water basins, and oceans.
ASCE Policy Statement 461
First Approved in 1997