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Volume 2, Number 1

May, 2006

 TMDL Implementation Guidance for Local Governments

  By  Jim George, PhD


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TMDL Implementation Guide

Click here for Maryland’s 2006 TMDL Implementation Guidance for Local Governments

A Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) is like a New Year’s resolution to go on a diet. In this case, the “diet” is the maximum amount of pollution that a waterbody can tolerate and still meet water quality standards. TMDL implementation is like sticking to the diet. Soon to be released, Maryland’s 2006 TMDL Implementation Guidance for Local Governments will help Maryland stick to the diet needed to restore and protect water quality.

The purpose of Maryland’s 2006 TMDL Implementation Guidance
Federal laws and regulations provide specific guidance on developing TMDLs, but do not provide much detail on how to implement TMDLs once they are developed. The 2006 Guidance is meant to address this need.

“The main purpose of the document is to inform local policy makers that TMDL implementation represents a paradigm shift in requirements for water quality management and to ensure that all decisions made by State and local officials consider the possible water quality implications,” said Dr. Richard Eskin, director of Technical and Regulatory Service Administration. In this spirit, the guidance calls for establishing the technical, financial and administrative capacity needed to meet higher expectations for water quality. It also provides interim advice and urges local governments to work with the Chesapeake Bay Tributary Strategy implementation planning process.

While the release of the guidance is a step in the right direction, it is not an end to the process. In the coming years, MDE will continue to work with local governments to refine this document. The following topics will be the focus of future refinements:

  • How should TMDL implementation plans be documented
  • How to fulfill the specific TMDL implementation requirements
  • How to develop policies and procedures for maintaining the cap
    on new sources of nutrients

Getting Organized
TMDL implementation will involve many units of local government. For example, agencies responsible for local land use planning will need to ensure that nonpoint source loads associated with future land use will not exceed TMDL allocations. Similarly, public works departments might be faced with weighing the pros and cons of surface water discharges versus spray irrigation alternatives within the context of land use planning. Also, local health departments, when involved in subdivision plotting, will need to coordinate with plans that account for water quality impacts.

Developing policies and procedures for TMDL implementation will require a lot of coordination. The guidance suggests that each local government form a multi-agency coordinating committee. The purpose of such a committee would be to read and discuss the TMDL Implementation Guidance and begin formulating local implementation policies and procedures. 

To ensure that everyone understands the responsibilities shared among State and local agencies, it is important that the new policies and procedures are well documented. The Guidance encourages local governments to adopt local “TMDL Implementation Framework” documents, a sample of which is provided in the guidance.

Big Learning Curve
The process of TMDL implementation will involve public and private sectors, some of which do not have much experience dealing with this issue. Before any informed discussion can take place, those involved will first need to become familiar with an array of issues associated with TMDL implementation. While the 2006 Guidance provides the extensive background information meant to educate policymakers, State and local officials will continue to work together on specific TMDL issues. 

To learn more about TMDL implementation in Maryland, visit:

:: This Issue's Featured Articles :: Enforcement and Compliance Notes :: For the Record



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Maryland Department of the Environment
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