Our Region is Progressing Toward a Healthy Future

Puget Soundkeeper (PSK) and Washington Environmental Council (WEC) challenged Washington’s Municipal General Stormwater Permit in 2012. Our win initiated much-needed Permit updates. Permitted cities and counties around Puget Sound were required to update their development codes and regulations by 2016 to make low-impact development (LID) the “preferred and commonly used approach” for our region. LID ensures that stormwater from new development will be treated and controlled to prevent pollution impacts to our watersheds and communities. 

Unfortunately, some Permittees failed to take meaningful action by the 2016 deadline. Since then, though, we have seen significant municipal progress toward controlling stormwater. Twenty-eight Permittees have made strong improvements since our first Scorecard was issued in 2017. Now, over 70% of these municipalities have earned at least 4 of 5 checkmarks. View the 2017 and 2019 Scorecard now, to compare.

This progress is evidence that YOU can make a difference: your calls, emails, and testimony to your city and county councils have helped move the dial on stormwater pollution to better protect our waterways.

How Were They Graded in the First Scorecard?

Under the Clean Water Act, Permittees are required to manage their stormwater runoff to protect water quality and make LID the “preferred and commonly used approach.” This means writing LID requirements into the municipal codes that govern development projects. PSK and WEC reviewed development code updates in all 83 Puget Sound municipalities with pollution discharge permits and graded them on Five Key LID Indicators based on State guidelines. Read more about our grading rubric here.

How Well Did They Score?

Permittees were legally required to review and update their development codes, making low-impact development techniques the new norm for our region. We looked at whether this process was completed and whether substantive updates were made to incorporate the Five Key LID Indicators, based on State guidelines, to manage stormwater runoff from new development.

What Else Must Change?

There is more work to do, even though 72% of Puget Sound Permittees made significant progress on LID code updates in 2019. 

First: our region has not yet fully implemented the LID requirements of the 2012 stormwater permits. Sixteen percent of Puget Sound cities and counties still lagged far behind when we last reviewed compliance. Our region is progressing, but not yet finished. 

Second: it’s unclear whether municipalities are monitoring development to ensure LID is implemented during design and construction. If cities and counties do not meet their permit requirements and fail to hold developers accountable, those requirements can be a paper tiger.

Third: our region is making strides to control stormwater from new development, but many areas throughout Puget Sound were built before LID became the required best practice. We must do more to retrofit existing development for stormwater, in addition to ensuring LID is implemented for new development, redevelopment, and new construction.