SMC effort underway to build new vision for how dischargers collect, analyze stormwater data

The SMC has launched a three-year effort to assess how Southern California’s stormwater management community could extract more managerially relevant insights from the millions of dollars that dischargers spend each year collecting and analyzing data as part of their stormwater permit requirements.

The ongoing SMC Streamlining Annual Reporting project, which began in early 2021, is seeking to build broad, cross-sector consensus on what types of data analyses should be conducted to communicate a cohesive, regional portrait of the progress being made by stormwater dischargers each year as they work to effectively manage wet- and dry-weather runoff across thousands of square miles of diverse, heavily urbanized Southern California landscapes.

SMC member agencies are required to collect and report data from their stormwater programs, including their stream monitoring programs, above, as part of stormwater permit annual reporting requirements. A new SMC project is working to build an updated vision for how to collect and analyze these data sets in more managerially relevant ways.

Significantly, the project is asking not only how data already being collected and reported could be better utilized and presented, but also what types of data ideally should be collected and reported to optimally improve visibility and understanding of stormwater managers’ work. Project participants will work toward a common vision for how to analyze and present data more consistently and in more visual, interactive formats across Southern California – while still satisfying permit reporting requirements.

Voluminous data are routinely collected and reported as part of every stormwater discharger’s permit requirements, but the data sets are not typically reported in editable, standardized ways, limiting the data’s accessibility and utility. Indeed, much of the data lives only in static PDF documents.

To date, the SMC has conducted a series of structured feedback and listening sessions with an SMC-appointed focus group that includes both dischargers and regulators. The focus group reviewed annual reporting requirements for six Phase I permits issued across southern California, as well as the structure and composition of the most recent annual reports submitted by the SMC’s regulated member agencies.

Among the data analyses the focus group is considering prioritizing are water quality indices for receiving water assessments, receiving water attainment assessments, discharge assessments, and flow/volume assessments, as well as related performance metrics for each of these assessments.

Once the focus group has determined what the priority reporting assessments and metrics should be, the SMC will build a web-based platform that enables Southern California dischargers to begin submitting a subset of these priority data analyses on a pilot basis. The project will be completed by the end of 2023.

The recommendations and reporting platform developed through this project are expected to help inform decision-making by stormwater program managers and Southern California’s Regional Water Quality Control Boards, which are responsible for codifying data reporting requirements into stormwater discharge permits as they come up for renewal. Additionally, the State Water Resources Control Board is closely following the project, as it has the potential to help inform the State’s own ongoing efforts to streamline, automate and standardize collection and reporting for stormwater dischargers and other regulated parties.

SMC Spring 2022 Newsletter
Volume 2, Issue 3

This newsletter is published three times a year by the Southern California Stormwater Monitoring Coalition (SMC). To subscribe to this newsletter, contact [email protected].