Traditional definitions of storm water have usually characterized it as nonpoint source runoff. However, most urban and industrial storm water is discharged through conveyances, such as separate storm sewers, ditches, channels or other conveyances which are considered point sources under the Clean Water Act and therefore are subject to regulation through the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit program.

Nonpoint Source Pollution

Nonpoint Source Pollution is water pollution caused by diffuse runoff that is not confined to a single discharge point such as a wastewater treatment plant or industrial discharge pipe. Nonpoint sources can be divided into source activities related to either land or water use, including failing septic tanks, improper animal-keeping practices, forest practices and urban and rural runoff. The Virginia Department of Conservation and Recreation regulates the following nonpoint source pollution control programs:

  • Nutrient Management
  • Agricultural Best Management Practices
  • Floodplain Management
  • Soil and Water Conservation Districts

The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality regulates the following nonpoint source pollution control programs:

  • Erosion and Sediment Control
  • Stormwater
  • Wetlands
  • Shoreline Erosion Control

Point Source Pollution

Point source pollution is water pollution discharged at a specific location from pipes, outfalls, and conveyance channels from either municipal wastewater treatment plants or industrial waste treatment facilities. Point sources can also include pollutant loads contributed by tributaries to the main receiving water stream or river. The Virginia Department of Environmental Quality regulates storm water discharges associated with "industrial activities."

Visit the DEQ's Pollution Prevention page for more information


Wetland and Stream Protection

The Virgina Department of Environmental Quality administers the Virginia Water Protection (VWP) Permit Program and an associated compliance program through regulation of:

  • Surface water withdrawals and non-agricultural impoundments.
  • Impacts to surface water such as land clearing, dredging, filling, excavating, draining or ditching in open water, streams and wetlands.

Protecting wetlands and streams to protect their beneficial uses also acts as part of a larger effort to protect the quality of state waters and reduce water pollution in Virginia. The DEQ grants funded initiatives to explore future wetlands, stream and lake protection methodologies and policies. State law requires that a VWP permit be obtained before disturbing a wetland or stream by clearing, filling, excavating, draining or ditching.

Visit the DEQ's Wetland and Stream Protection page for more information.