Polluted stormwater runoff is the leading source of surface water pollution in the United States. The Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Conservation and Recreation have ordered aggressive standards for pollution reduction in the James River.
Each locality developed programs that identified and eliminated non-stormwater discharges in the storm sewer system, including illegal dumping of materials such as paint, leaves, debris, oils and grease into storm sewers.
Richmond is also responsible for the enforcement of programs controlling waste and sediment and reducing pollutants from construction sites - major contributors of urban stormwater pollution.
Each locality must bear the financial responsibility of these mandates since they do not come with state or federal funding.
Virginia Stormwater Management Program
In March 2013, the Virginia Soil & Water Conservation Board approved a new Virginia Stormwater Management Program (VSMP) general permit for Municipal Separate Storm Sewers (MS4) that became effective July 1, 2013. This permit is a federal mandate by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency whose purpose is to improve the water quality of stormwater runoff.
The City of Richmond is regulated under the Virginia Department of Environmental Quality to discharge stormwater under the Virginia Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (VDPES) general permit. This permit allows the City of Richmond to discharge stormwater per the State and Federal Laws created from the Clean Water Act. The Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) is a required document prepared by the City each permit cycle to outline the planning of activities the city is doing to reduce stormwater runoff pollution to the maximum extent practicable in a manner that protects the water quality in nearby streams, rivers, wetlands and bay. The City of Richmond is considered a Phase II MS4.
How will we comply with the VPDES permit?
The MS4 Program must include an MS4 Program Plan that includes six minimum control measures and Special Conditions for approved Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDL) for the Chesapeake Bay TMDL and non-Chesapeake Bay TMDLs. The six minimum control measures are:
- Public Education and Outreach
- Public Involvement/Participation
- Illicit Discharge Detection and Elimination
- Construction Site Stormwater Runoff Control
- Post-construction Stormwater Management
- Pollution Prevention/Good Housekeeping for Municipal Operations
The city of Richmond has five years to develop and implement a program to comply with these six measures. The Department of Public Utilities (DPU) manages the separate storm sewer and the VPDES permit. DPU created a stakeholders group comprised of representatives from city departments who interact with stormwater. The stakeholders group developed a stormwater management plan to comply with the VPDES permit.
The city of Richmond has a Combined Sewer System (CSS) in the older, central part of the city. A CSS carries stormwater and wastewater to the wastewater treatment plant prior to discharging it into the river. The remaining portions of the city are served by a municipal separate storm sewer system (MS4). The MS4 carries stormwater runoff away from streets and neighborhoods directly to streams and the James River. This runoff is not treated before it empties into the water bodies. Any trash or pollutants on the streets or lawns travel with the stormwater runoff into our streams and rivers.
- Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Permit
- City of Richmond MS4 Program Plan 2018 – 2023
- City of Richmond Integrated CSS and MS4 Annual Report 2020
- City of Richmond MS4 Annual Report 2017-2018
- City of Richmond MS4 Annual Report 2016-2017
- City of Richmond MS4 Annual Report 2015-2016
- City of Richmond MS4 Annual Report 2014-2015
- RVAH2O Website
Need to report an illicit discharge, improper disposal, spill, land disturbance, or other complaint? Call 311 or visit www.rva311.com to request a service.
Under the "Investigate, Locate, Assess" category, you can:
- Report an illicit discharge, disposal, or spill.
- Request that the City of Richmond perform a stormwater assessment.
- Report an issue with land clearing or erosion.
Have input regarding the Program Plan for the City of Richmond's MS4 Permit or suggestions for programs, projects, and events that can help to improve pollution prevention efforts? Please fill out this form with your feedback.
What is a floodplain?
A floodplain is a natural low lying area next to a river or stream. A floodplain helps spread out and slow down the water during rain events. It is an important part of our water system and effects water quality, wildlife habitat, and stormwater runoff. Building or alterations in the floodplain can cause detrimental effects both upstream and downstream. It is important you know your level of risk and protect yourself, your family and your property.
Can I build in a floodplain?
Building in the floodplain is discouraged in the City. There are strict guidelines before development can occur in the floodplain. All areas of the City have flood elevation protection requirements. Alterations to existing development requires flood proofing to protect from property damage during flooding events. It is important to know that any residential development in the floodplain will be required to carry flood insurance.
To find out more about building in a floodplain, please contact the Water Resources Division at (804)646-7586.
What Causes Flooding?
- Heavy rainfall and large storms can cause flooding events. Excessive amounts of rainfall can happen at any time of the year. Flooding causes high risk to people and properties.
- Flash floods, a rapid flooding of low-lying areas caused by intense rainfall or thunderstorms can tear out trees and destroy building and bridges.
- Snow melt can produce large amounts of runoff because the ground is frozen and hard. Water cannot penetrate or be reabsorbed into the ground -- producing excess runoff, taking pollutants and debris with it.
- New development can change the amount of impervious area that does not absorb rain. This increase in water running across the surface of the ground can cause streams and rivers to become overtopped when historically they did not before new buildings and parking lots were built.
- Blocked inlets can become clogged with debris from trash, sediment, leaves and lawn clippings. Inlets full of trash have the capacity to take stormwater away, causing flooding, driving hazards and property damage even during small rain events.
How Can I Protect my Property?
If you build in a floodplain or purchase a property in the floodplain and carry a mortgage, you may be required by your lender to carry flood insurance. Flood insurance is not included in your property insurance. Only the NFIP provides flood insurance. In Virginia it is the property owner's responsibility to find out if a structure is in the floodplain.
The City of Richmond participates in the national Flood Insurance Program and has Flood Insurance Rate Maps (FIRMs) of floodplains within the city. Under this program, federally insured or regulated institutions must require flood insurance policies on all new loans for structures in mapped special flood hazard areas (SFHA) recognized by the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA).
To find out more about building in a floodplain, please contact the Water Resources Division at (804) 646-7586.
The local flood protection system in Richmond has a total length of 17,327 feet (3.28 miles) and protects 750 acres valued at approximately $153 million. It consists of:
- A partially rip-rapped earthen levee
- A concrete floodwall
- Three overlooks (9th & Semmes, Hull & Mayo Bridge, and 12th & Byrd)
- Six roadway closures
- Six railroad closures
- Four personnel closure locations
- Two combined roadway and railroad closures
- Three pump stations
- Three designated ponding areas
The southside alignment comprises three components:
- One earthen levee, approximately 9,000 feet long
- A combination bin wall/levee, approximately 2,000 feet long
- A concrete floodwall, approximately 2,000 feet long
The line of protection extends from just west of the Manchester Bridge, continues along the river's edge to the west side of Interstate 95, turns south, then west, crossing the CSX Railway mainline tracks, and tying into high ground at Goodes Street.
Interior runoff from the watershed in excess of the capacity of the pump station during high river stages will be collected or backed up into the ponding areas. After the river recedes, all ponding areas will drain by gravity through their respective outlets.
The northern alignment is comprised of one component, concrete floodwall which is approximately 4,500 feet long with height variations from five to 29 feet.
The line of protection extends across the mouth of Shockoe Valley to 12th Street. The wall is designed to protect those areas located behind it against a flood with an average recurrence interval of 280 years. The project was dedicated on October 21, 1994, at a cost of $143 million.
Our FEMA (Federal Emergency Management Agency) maps are available online.
Preparing a site for land disturbing requires a permit separate from a building permit. The Department of Public Utilities, Stormwater Utility is required to monitor all land disturbing construction activities, erosion and sediment control, stormwater construction and Chesapeake Bay water quality requirements for all new and redevelopment projects.
The Water Resources Division issues three types of permits to cover land disturbing for all new and redevelopment projects.
A Land Disturbing Permit (LDIS) is required for all proposed new or redevelopment land disturbing on a site greater than 4,000 square feet, not in a Chesapeake Bay buffer area, and not in the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) area of the City. This permit will cover all erosion and sediment control, site drainage, and floodplain regulatory requirements. See below for more information on permit submittal and requirements.
A Richmond Stormwater Management Program Permit (RSMP) is a required for land disturbance one (1) acre or greater that drains to the Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) area of the City. This permit will cover all erosion and sediment control, storm drainage installation for pipes, inlets, outfalls, and structural and non-structural best management practices, Chesapeake Bay and floodplain regulatory requirements.
A Heavy Highway contractor's License is required for this type of permit. To verify the location of your parcel please call (804)646-7586.
A Storm Drainage Permit (STRM) is required when a stormwater management system must be installed, upgraded, or improved. This permit typically is required in conjunction with a land disturbing permit but can be applied for when small stormwater work is required without land disturbing.
To best prepare your plans for plan review, use the appropriate checklist to ensure all the required information is complete.
The Stormwater Management Design and Construction Standards Manual can assist with all storm drainage design and specifications for proposed projects.
Building a Single Family Dwelling?
All Single Family Dwellings (SFD) disturbing 4,000 square feet of land or more are required to submit a separate land disturbing permit for all single family dwellings in or out of a common plan of development (subdivision). Single Family dwellings may be eligible for an Agreement In Lieu of Plan (AILP) in place of submitted a complete set of civil engineering plans. Please use the flowchart above to determine if a permit is required. A small site plan along with a bond is required for those SFDs that are eligible for the AILP.
Example of small site plan here. It must show:
- The proposed dwelling
- The adjacent street(s)
- The adjacent parcel(s)
- The limits of disturbance (LOD)
- Silt fence protecting the site (SF)
- A construction entrance (CE)
Chesapeake Bay Buffer Areas and Permits
The Chesapeake Bay Protection Areas are special areas of the city that are designated as having an impacting on or draining to the Chesapeake Bay. These areas are divided into area buffer areas, the Resource Management Area (RMA) and the Resource Protection Area (RPA).
Land Development of 2,500 square feet or greater in the CBPA and discharge into the MS4 requires a RMSP permit and must submit the required civil plans in the CBPA checklist. The VA Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ) has enacted Stormwater regulations that require development in these areas to meet new water quality standards. Using specific data regarding impervious areas, the amount Water quality treatment for each site is determined using the Runoff Reduction Spreadsheet.
Using specific data regarding impervious areas, the amount of phosphorus to be removed from the water will be determined. Land development of one (1) acre or greater in non CPPA will also be required to provide water quality treatment as part of the RMSP permit approval.
Development within the RPA and the 50 foot buffer land ward of a perennial water body, is restricted and requires mitigation of the impacts to the area beyond water quality.
Land Disturbing Permit Application Package Submission
The permit intake office is located at 900 East Broad Street, Room 110. Please have your completed application package (plans, fees, documentation) ready prior to coming into the office. If you have questions about the permit application intake process please call (804)646-8106.
An electronic plan set is required with every application. Be prepared to come with an ftp site url location, thumb or jump drive with plans for downloading.
A performance bond is required for every land disturbing project. (CIP projects excluded).
- Sample Bond
- Bonds amounts are determined by the amount of E & S measures required on the plans.
- A Developer's Agreement (DA) must be signed and submitted along with the bond. The DA must be signed by the director. (This can take up to a week.)
- Bonds can be paid by check, surety bond, or an irrevocable letter of credit.
- Bonds are returned at the end of the project once the site has established 80% vegetation (not at CO).
- Should you not complete your project, you bond can be called and used towards stabilizing the site.
Bonds are submitted directly to:
- DPU Water Resources at 730 E Broad St., 8th floor
- Stormwater Utility Maintenance Agreement
- Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ)
- Department of Conservation and Recreation (DCR)
- Virginia Stormwater BMP Clearing House
- City of Richmond Code Chapter 14 - Floodplain Management, Erosion and Sediment Control, and Drainage (Municode)
- Interactive Chesapeake Bay Map
The City of Richmond is committed to helping the Commonwealth improve and preserve water quality for the 64,000 square mile watershed that flows to the Chesapeake Bay.
The Chesapeake Bay program was adopted in 1981 as required by Virginia General Assembly to create and preserve buffer areas around local streams and rivers to help improve water quality.
New and redevelopment construction projects within these designated Chesapeake Bay Protection Areas (CBPAs) are required to provide some type offset or mitigation to improve the quality of the water before the runoff enters local waterways which ultimately flow to the Bay.
When developing within a CBPA there are some key points to remember:
Resource Management Area
A Resource Management Area (RMA) is contiguous to the entire inland boundary of a Resource Protection Area (RPA). The following land categories shall be considered for inclusion in the Resource Management Area and, where mapping resources indicate the presence of these land types contiguous to the resource protection area, should be included in designations of RMAs:
- 100-year floodplains
- Highly erodible soils including steep slopes
- Non-tidal wetlands not included in the RPA
- 500-foot buffers (protect RPAs and those other areas listed)
- 600-foot buffers outward from the center of the stream in areas where the RMA has no site specific evaluation.
Resource Protection Area
A Resource Protection Area (RPA) consists of lands adjacent to water bodies with perennial flow that have an intrinsic water quality value due to the ecological and biological processes they perform or lands that are sensitive to impacts which may cause significant degradation to the quality of state waters. The City has included the following areas:
- Tidal wetlands
- Non-tidal wetlands contiguous to tidal wetlands or water bodies with perennial flow
- Tidal shores
- Other land considered necessary for water quality protection
- Buffered areas 100 feet landward of and adjacent to those listed above.
An Intensely Developed Area (IDA) is an overlay to the RPA, this category includes "areas of existing development and infill sites where little of the natural environment remains." Development in an IDA is treated as redevelopment, in which case the performance requirement is for a ten percent (10%) reduction in nonpoint source pollution where runoff is not already treated by a BMP.
Water Quality Impact Assessment (WQIA) is a narrative that identifies the impacts of proposed development on water quality and lands in the Resources Protection Areas consistent with the goals and objectives of the Clean Water Act, City Code, and the city's programs, and to determine specific measures for mitigation of those impacts. A WQIA is required for all development and encroachments into a RPA.