Urbanization, Water Quality, and the Regulated Landscape

74 Pages Posted: 4 Mar 2010 Last revised: 2 Mar 2012

Date Written: April 2011


Watershed scientists frequently describe urbanization as a primary cause of water quality degradation, and recent studies conclude that even in lightly-developed watersheds, urbanization often precludes attainment of water quality standards. This article considers legal responses to this pervasive problem. It explains why traditional legal measures have been ineffective, and it evaluates several recent innovations piloted in the northeastern United States and potentially applicable across the nation. Specifically, the innovations involve using impervious cover TMDLs, residual designation authority, and collective permitting. More generally, the innovations involve transferring regulatory focus from end-of-the-pipe to landscape-based controls. I conclude that the innovations, while raising some new problems, represent a promising shift, and it discuss additional reforms and research needed to better reconcile legal water quality standards and traditional land development patterns.

Keywords: urbanization, water quality, impervious cover, TMDLs, residual designation authority, watershed-based permitting, federalism

Suggested Citation

Owen, Dave, Urbanization, Water Quality, and the Regulated Landscape (April 2011). University of Colorado Law Review, Vol. 82, No. 2, 2011, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1563467 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.1563467

Dave Owen (Contact Author)

UC Law, San Francisco ( email )

200 McAllister Street
San Francisco, CA 94102
United States

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