The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Office of Water administers the Clean Water Act, first enacted in October 1972. The Clean Water Act is the federal umbrella legislation that protects all types of water bodies, including rivers, lakes, aquifers, and coastal areas. The goal of the Clean Water Act is to improve the quality of the nations waters through the following mandates:
Under the Clean Water Act, the EPA established the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES), which requires increasingly stringent technology-based restrictions on the discharge of pollutants from point sources. A point source is an identifiable source of discharge to a body of water, such as a major industry or a wastewater treatment plant. Therefore, these industries and municipalities are required by the federal government to submit their NPDES permits, which identify the quantity and type of pollutants entering the water.
By contrast, nonpoint sources are more difficult to identify, and EPA allowed the states to decide how nonpoint sources would be regulated. Nonpoint sources include urban stormwater runoff, sediment and nutrient influx from agricultural lands, and sources such as commercial agricultural drains that are not tributaries to the river system.
The combination of point and nonpoint pollution sources has resulted in failure to meet water quality standards. Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act requires states to address both point and nonpoint sources by establishing Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for waters that do not meet water quality goals.
The Idaho Water Quality Law is designated S.B. 1284 (IC §39:3601). Created in 1995 by the Idaho Legislature, the Water Quality Law is designed to be proactive and retain state control of the water quality limited TMDL process. Following are the six most critical elements of the legislation:
The EPA also passes water quality laws specific to Idaho. For example, on July 31, 1997, EPA issued a Final Rule establishing new standards for Idaho streams. The standards included temperature criteria for protecting bull trout in certain streams. It also designated that all streams currently without an assigned designated use to a "cold water biota" use.
The TMDL deadline for the lower Boise River watershed is driven by a series of courtroom decisions by Judge Dwyer. Following is a brief history of the 303(d) Lawsuit and Judge Dwyer Decisions:
Currently, DEQ must prepare TMDLs for the lower Boise River by December 1998 for submission to EPA. TMDLs have been required for 20 years under the Clean Water Act, but EPA has only recently begun to enforce this part of the federal code.
Basin Advisory Groups (BAGs) are established by the Idaho Water Quality Law (Title 39-3613 and 39-3614). Each BAG has 10 members, who are appointed by the Governor and the DEQ Administrator. The BAG has the following responsibilities:
Watershed Advisory Groups (WAGs) are organizations of stakeholders and interested parties in a particular watershed (Title 39-3615 and 39-3616). The organization applies to the BAG to become a state-designated WAG. The Lower Boise Watershed Council is a WAG. Following are the responsibilities of each WAG:
The role of the WAG in the development of TMDLs expanded in 2005 with the passage of House Bill 145. Idaho Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) prepared an excellent overview and fact sheet (PDF 180 KB) of these changes.