City of Houston Stormwater Quality (SWQ) Permit and Stormwater Quality Management Plan (SWQMP)

City of Houston Stormwater Quality (SWQ) Permit and Stormwater Quality Management Plan (SWQMP)

The Stormwater Quality (SWQ) Permitting program was developed as part of the Texas Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (TPDES) with the aim to reduce the post-construction phase discharge of pollutants into the surface water of the state and/or into the municipal separate storm sewer systems (MS4s) via stormwater runoff from residential, commercial and light industrial areas located in the City of Houston.

Who Needs a Stormwater Quality (SWQ) Permit?

Any site wholly or partially located in the City of Houston that will undergo new development or significant redevelopment is subject to the SWQ permitting program. Per Sec. 47-601 of the City of Houston Code of Ordinances, new development is defined as the development of a previously undeveloped parcel of land that is 1 or more acres in size. In contrast, significant redevelopment is defined as the development of 0.2 acres or more on an already developed parcel of land that is at least 1 acre in size.

A SWQ Permit is not required if the site is or will be permitted under the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) Multi-Sector General Permit (MSGP). The SWQ permit differs from the MSGP in that applicability to the SWQ permit is based primarily on the size of the development or redevelopment whereas applicability to the MSGP is generally based on the specific industrial activity to be conducted at the site. However, a site that is not required to obtain a SWQ permit due to being permitted under the MSGP must still prepare and submit an Industrial Activity Certification (IAC) to the city engineer.

Therefore, if your site meets the definition of either new development or significant redevelopment and the site is not applicable to or permitted by the MSGP, you likely need to obtain a SWQ Permit.

SWQ Permit Application Process

A SWQ Permit must be applied for prior to commencing construction for new development or significant redevelopment. SWQ Permit applications must be submitted to the city engineer via The Houston Permitting Center and must be submitted alongside all applicable application fees, a Permit Application Form, an Owner’s Affidavit, a Professional Engineer (PE) Certification Form and a Stormwater Quality Management Plan (SWQMP).

The Stormwater Quality Management Plan (SWQMP)

The purpose of the SWQMP is to describe how structural and non-structural controls will be utilized at the site in order to reduce pollutants in stormwater discharge. SWQMPs must include a proposed checklist for conducting inspections of each control utilized at the site, a plan for maintaining said controls and any associated construction drawings. Other suggested elements of a SWQMP may include a description of the site’s location, use, potent pollutants, site and vicinity maps, stormwater discharge locations and copies of any permitting documents issued for construction. Controls must be implemented as described in the SWQMP and SWQMPs must be sealed by a PE licensed in the state of Texas.

Issuance of the SWQ Permit

If, after reviewing the SWQ Permit application and the SWQMP, the city engineer finds that all requirements are included and that the SQWMP is in compliance with all applicable regulations, the city engineer will approve and issue the SWQ Permit. SWQ Permits are for the life of a site; however, they must be renewed annually.

SWQ Permit Annual Renewal Process

To renew a SWQ Permit, a renewal application form and the applicable fees must be submitted to the city engineer between 5-30 days prior to the permit’s expiration. To be eligible for renewal, the permittee must also certify that all controls at the site are implemented and maintained as described in the SWQMP. If structural controls are in use at a site, this certification must be sealed by a PE licensed in the state of Texas.

SWQ Permit Amendment Process

To amend a SWQ Permit, an application for amendment, a revised SWQMP and the applicable fees must be submitted to the city engineer in the time frame specified in Sec. 47-654 of the City of Houston Code of Ordinances. Conditions requiring SWQ Permit amendments include: a change in the personnel responsible for the SWQ permit, changes to the way structural and non-structural controls are utilized at the site as described in the SWQMP or if there is additional new development or significant redevelopment conducted at the permitted site.

The Take-Home

If you need assistance in determining applicability to the SWQ permitting program, submitting an IAC, preparing and/or submitting the SWQ Permit application, developing the SWQMP, conducting inspections and obtaining PE certifications for the annual SWQ Permit renewal or any other associated processes, please contact Vidhi Singhal with ESE Partners at 281-501-6100 or vidhi@esepartners.com.