In early December, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced a new collaborative framework for developing Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) to begin in 2014. The New Program Vision incorporates experience gained over the last two decades from developing nearly 65,000 TMDLs. The new vision focuses on improving how states establish and prioritize impaired waters. The vision seeks to provide states with more flexibility by offering tools beyond TMDLs for achieving water quality restoration and by allowing states to tailor their program to meet specific needs and goals. State activities would also be incorporated into a national restoration program. Further, the plan includes a new focus on maintaining and protecting healthy waters. The new program envisions that:

  • by 2014, states and EPA will actively engage the public and stakeholders in protecting water quality;
  • by 2016, states will report on priority waters or watersheds for inclusion in state strategic planning. States also will identify protection planning priorities for healthy waters. Further, states will coordinate implementation and foster integration of point and nonpoint source control actions;
  • by 2018, states can use alternative approaches, such as adaptive management; and
  • by 2020, states will report on the extent of both impaired and healthy waters in priority waters or watersheds.

The original framework for the vision was released in 2011, and a draft was released a year later. See the long-term vision. Also check out the question-and-answer document.