Step 1: Define the Condition of Your Community’s System

It almost goes without saying that your community’s local flooding and stormwater situation is unique and that you need a specific strategy to address your flooding and stormwater challenges tailored to your geographical, financial, infrastructural, institutional, community, and political setting. Setting a solid foundation for your community’s tailored approach is, however, crucial. That’s why Navigate the Flood Step 1 is to comprehensively define the existing conditions of your community’s flood and stormwater systems before starting to develop a management plan. 

To define the conditions of your flood and stormwater systems, technical staff will need to survey, assess, and document the: 

  • existing state of physical infrastructure 
  • city/utility financial health, e.g., ability to fund and finance capital investments and operations and maintenance
  • staff’s internal technical and financial management capacities 
  • legal and regulatory requirements governing the operation of the system
  • non-profit or community agencies working in your community and region to identify potential project partners
  • available planning tools and potential opportunities for collaboration (see Steps 2-5 for planning tools, etc.). 

Explore Subsections (a)-(f) below to dig into the details of Step 1 towards navigating the flood. Each Subsection includes case studies and technical and financial resources that will help define the condition of your community’s flood and stormwater systems.

(a) Determine the existing physical conditions of the watershed and waterways, anticipated climate change impacts, and flood risks and associated tools.

(b) Evaluate the causes of stormwater runoff and the stormwater drainage system.

  • What are the potential causes of polluted stormwater?
    • Impervious surfaces (building roofs, parking lots, roads)
    • Construction activities
    • Industrial activities
    • Municipal sources
    • Agricultural sources
  • Identify whether physical assets have been physically or electronically mapped (GIS)
  • Identify percentage and type of stormwater systems (CSO vs MS4)
  • Identify condition and location of the following
    • Inlets
    • Grey Infrastructure – man-made single purpose systems
    • Green Infrastructure – man-made structures that mimic natural systems
    • Unchannelized ditches and streams
  • Identify if there are total maximum daily loads (TMDLs) and if stormwater sampling will support meeting regulatory requirements to address them
  • Identify the type of stormwater sampling required under permit requirements, eg:
    • Industrial and commercial sites
    • Receiving waters
    • Areas of special biological significance

Case Study



(c) Review available technical, managerial and financial documents to assess current internal capacity to address flooding and stormwater management.

Examples of documents to review include:

  • Strategic plan
  • Asset management plan and capital improvement plan
  • Operations and maintenance plan
  • Financial plan and staffing/HR plan
  • Authorizing legislation/ordinance (what a utility can and cannot do as defined in the state or municipal code establishing the utility)
    • Ordinaces should be written in a way that maximizes stormwater capture and minimizes stormwater impact from private properties


Case Study


(d) Review planning needs and identify and document all current and potential future regulatory requirements to address flooding and stormwater.

  • Identify level of compliance with regulatory requirements and if your management practices are currently equitable. Note: you can be in compliance, but be inequitable 
    • Federal
      • Identify any water quality impairments per the relevant states’ Clean Water Act 303(d) list and applicable TMDLs
    • State
      • Stormwater volume control requirements (post-construction of projects)
      • Redevelopment standards
      • Authorizing legislation defining what the financial capacities are e.g.:
        • Ability to collect rates and for what
        • Ability to debt finance and for what
    • Local
      • Master Plans
      • Zoning Laws
      • Local Charter Requirements
      • Permits



(e) Identify stakeholders and create a structure for community engagement.

Stakeholder and community engagement are relevant at every stage of the planning and implementation for your project. The Navigate the Flood Stakeholder Engagement Plan outlines how you can meaningfully engage your community in surveying the existing conditions of your system. The case studies and technical resources linked below provide additional community and stakeholder engagement guidance.


Case Study


(f) Connect with neighboring communities to identify opportunities to jointly manage flooding and stormwater.

  • Identify operational and managerial opportunities to work together with neighboring municipalities to address flooding and stormwater challenges
  • Recognize that flooding and many stormwater challenges are not localized, they may begin or end outside of your municipal boundaries
    • Work with your neighbors to understand these challenges and collaborate
    • Collaborative approaches to flooding and stormwater challenges may lead to more funding opportunity for your region


All Step 1 Resources

Camden County Municipal Utilities Authority: A Wet Weather Case Study of Incorporating Community Interests into Effective Infrastructure Decision Makings | US EPA, 2018

See specific sections: The Problem: Combined Sewer Overflows (CSOs), Need for a Long-Term Control Plan, and Camden’s Sewershed Alternatives Analysis

Community Led Research Toolkit | River Network, 2021

This resources provides tools for equitable climate resilience and fostering community-led research and knowledge.

Impaired Waters and Stormwater | US EPA, 2019

This resource provides guidance in assessing impaired waters potentially contaminated with pollutants from stormwater sources.

Guidelines and Standards for Flood Risk Analysis and Mapping Activities Under the Risk MAP Program | FEMA, 2020

The guidelines and standards define the implementation details of the statutory and regulatory requirements for National Flood Insurance Program map.

State and Local Climate Change Adaptation Plans | Georgetown University,

To prepare for climate change, states and communities have begun planning processes that typically result in the development of an adaptation plan.

Where can I find Flood Maps? | USGS

This resource breaks down the purpose of various flood maps developed by FEMA, NOAA, and USGS.

Atlas 14 Point Precipitation Frequency Estimates: KS | NOAA

This resource serves as a tool to obtain predictive information for your geographic area on precipitation depth and intensity.

National League of Cities Grant Opportunities | NLC

NLC provides hands on technical assistance, education, and training in addition to supporting cities to connect with funding opportunities

San Francisco Bay Region Municipal Regional Stormwater NPDES Permit | California Regional Water Control Board, 2015

This resource includes cited regulatory and legal references and additional explanatory information in support of the requirements of this Permit.

Methods for Mapping Stormwater Infrastructure | AppGeo, 2018

Stormwater infrastructure mapping is often required for MS4 compliance and can provide useful data and insight to be used for other planning purposes.

Stormwater Sampling Guidance Document | US EPA, NPDES, 1992

This manual provides background for stormwater sampling, fundamentals of sampling, analytical considerations, flexibility in sampling, and safety.

National Stormwater Calculator | US EPA, 2017

This tool is a software application intended to help users control runoff and promote the natural movement of water.

CREAT Risk Assessment Application for Water Utilities | US EPA, 2020

This resource will help you identify grey infrastructure vulnerabilities within your system.

Sources and Solutions: Stormwater | US EPA, 2019

In urbanized areas, precipitation is unable to adequately infiltrate into the ground, increasing runoff and overwhelming the sewer system.

Potential Funding Sources, New Jersey Stormwater Utility Resource Center | New Jersey Futures, 2020

This resource describes the usage of fees to fund the planning work to create a stormwater utility and tabulates various funding opportunities.

Operations and Maintenance Plans by infrastructure Type | The City of Portland Oregon, 2020

This resource describes various stormwater infrastructure types as well as “most popular” and “most recent” deployed in various settings.

City of Tigard Stormwater Master Plan | 2017

The Plan addresses Tigard’s existing flooding, water quality, erosion, and maintenance issues, and provides several corresponding recommendations.

Asset Management Programs for Stormwater and Wastewater Systems: Overcoming Barriers to Development and Implementation | US EPA, 2017

The purpose of this paper is to identify the critical steps to be considered during AMP development and highlight real-world barriers to development.

The Building Blocks of An Effective Stormwater Management Plan | MOST, 2015

This tool is a free 1.5 hour online course designed to provide skills to develop an effective stormwater management plan and communicating the basics

Create a Municipal Operations and Maintenance (O&M) Plan | Land Studies, 2020

This resource is for Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) communities and details pollution prevention and best management practices.

Identify Your Community’s Stormwater Situation | New Jersey Future

The first thing to consider when establishing a stormwater utility is to acknowledge what you envision for your community now and in the future.

Enhanced Model Stormwater Ordinance | New Jersey Future, 2021

This resource serves as a new tool to help towns update their stormwater ordinance to increase green infrastructure and reduce flood risk.

Summary of State Stormwater Standards (Post Construction) | US EPA, 2011

See Table 1 for Post Construction Stormwater Standards by state (pages 1-7).

Circuit Rider Program | USDA Rural Development

The program offers technical assistance for rural water systems that are experiencing operational, financial or managerial issues.

The Pillars of Water Equity | US Water Alliance, 2021

This resource is the framework section of US Water Alliance's water equity clearninghouse. Other sections include Search and Explanation of Terms.

Guidance for Municipal Stormwater Funding | US EPA, 2006

This resource provides a series of high-level stormwater funding and financing considerations.

Enacting, Implementing & Funding Stormwater Programs | NACWA, 2016

This resource is a white paper that provides legal considerations for funding municipal stormwater programs.

Tap into Resilience Toolkit | WaterNow Alliance

This toolkit addresses financial and legal questions that arise when scaling investment in decentralized stormwater management solutions.

Evaluation of the Role of Public Outreach and Stakeholder Engagement in Stormwater Funding Decisions in New England: Lessons from Communities | US EPA, 2013

This resource is intended for MS4 communities considering various options to fund their stormwater programs.

Customer Advisory Committee | New Orleans Sewerage and Water Board, 2020

This resource describes why and how the The Sewerage and Water Board Customer Advisory Commitee was created in New Orleans, LA.

Stormwater Utility Toolkit | American Rivers

This resource outlines the common steps that communities can follow when developing a stormwater utility and getting the community on board.

Developing a Methodology for Community Engagement with an Emphasis on Stormwater Management Preferences | University of Florida, 2013

This resource provides a comprehensive analysis of stormwater management methods and approaches, design guidelines, and potential concerns.

“Selling” Stormwater Authorities: Tips for Gaining Community Support | New Jersey Water Works, 2014

This resource provides 5 recommendations on how to communicate a stormwater fee to the community.

The Water Center at Penn and WaterNow Alliance Flood and Stormwater Management Guide

With support from the Kresge Foundation

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