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Water Quality (Stormwater)

The City’s Water Quality (Stormwater) Program works to address water pollution affecting the municipal separate storm sewer system and waters of the United States, including compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permits. For additional information, please contact the Planning & Environmental Services Department at (949) 639-0500 or via our online contact form.

Overwatering is Out! Click here to learn how you can help prevent water runoff from carrying pollutants to our local waterways.

Frequently Asked Questions

What is the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permitting program?

The 1972 Federal Water Pollution Control Act, subsequently known as the Clean Water Act, established the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permitting program. As a result of court decisions and the overriding need to clarify stormwater permitting requirements, the Clean Water Act required the United States Environmental Protection Agency (“EPA”) to issue regulations to be effective by 1983 that included stormwater runoff from rainfall. The United States Congress passed a Clean Water Act Amendment in 1987, the Water Quality Act, which brought stormwater discharges into the NPDES Program. The EPA issued subsequent regulations on November 16, 1990.

In response to those regulations, the City has obtained, renewed, and complied with NPDES permits issued by the Santa Ana and San Diego regional water quality control boards.

What National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits is the City subject to?

Due to geography and local drainage patterns, Laguna Woods is one of only three incorporated cities in Orange County that is subject to the jurisdiction of both the Santa Ana and San Diego regional water quality control boards. As a result, the City is required to comply with a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permit issued by each regional water quality control board, in additional to general orders issued by, or as a result of directives from, the State Water Resources Control Board.

How does the City work to comply with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits?

An integral part of the City’s compliance with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (“NPDES”) permits is its partnership with the County of Orange, the Orange County Flood Control District, and the other incorporated cities of Orange County. The primary vehicle for this partnership is the Orange County Stormwater Program which, in addition to countywide efforts, includes regional efforts such as the South Orange County Watershed Management Area. For additional information on the Orange County Stormwater Program and the South Orange County Watershed Management Area, please click here to visit the County of Orange’s OC Watersheds website.

At the local level, the City’s NPDES compliance efforts focus on the reduction and elimination of “point source” pollutants into the municipal separate storm sewer system and waters of the United States, through the implementation of best management practices, maintenance of structural treatment controls, public education, development review, inspection, and enforcement. Common types of “point source” pollutants include, but are not limited to, construction waste and wastewater (e.g., paints, stains, and sealants) and household waste (e.g., trash, cleaning chemicals, yard waste, and animal fecal materials). Landscape irrigation, irrigation water, and lawn watering runoff (“over-irrigation”) are also prohibited.

The City’s primary regulations related to NPDES compliance efforts are codified at Chapter 4.14 (Water Quality) of the Laguna Woods Municipal Code. Violations of the Laguna Woods Municipal Code may result in administrative, civil, and/or criminal penalties, as well as other remedies available by law.

What watersheds is the City tributary to?

Laguna Woods is a part of three watersheds – Aliso Creek (regulated by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board), Laguna Coastal Streams (regulated by the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board), and Newport Bay (regulated by the Santa Ana Regional Water Quality Control Board).

What is the Dairy Fork Constructed Wetland?

The Dairy Fork Constructed Wetland treats stormwater and urban runoff from approximately 1,500 acres of mixed commercial and residential areas within the cities of Aliso Viejo, Laguna Hills, Laguna Woods, and Lake Forest before the runoff merges with Aliso Creek. It is located at the southwest corner of the intersection of Aliso Viejo Parkway and Moulton Parkway in the city of Aliso Viejo. Construction began in February 2016 and was followed by a grand opening celebration on June 5, 2017.

The cities of Aliso Viejo, Laguna Hills, Laguna Woods, and Lake Forest provided funding for construction of the Dairy Fork Constructed Wetland, which was augmented by competitive grants obtained from the State of California’s Proposition 84 Integrated Regional Water Management Program and the Orange County Transportation Authority’s Measure M2 Environmental Cleanup Program. All four cities continue to cost-share in ongoing operation and maintenance costs.

The Dairy Fork Constructed Wetland received the 2017 Environmental Engineering Project of the Year Award from the American Society of Civil Engineers’ Orange County Branch and a 2017 Best Storm Water Quality Project Award from the American Public Works Association’s Southern California Chapter.

What is the South Orange County Integrated Regional Water Management Plan?

On September 20, 2002, Governor Davis approved Senate Bill 1672, the Integrated Regional Water Management Planning Act of 2002, with the legislative intent of encouraging local agencies to work cooperatively to manage their available local and imported water supplies to improve the quality, quantity, and reliability of those supplies. As a result, the South Orange County Integrated Regional Water Management Plan was adopted in 2005 and subsequently updated in 2013 and 2018 by entities within the South Orange County Watershed Management Area.

The City Council accepted and supported the adoption of the South Orange County Integrated Regional Water Management Plan on June 15, 2005. The 2013 update was adopted by the City Council on August 21, 2013. The 2018 update was adopted by the City Council on July 18, 2018.

Participants in the South Orange County Watershed Management Area and South Orange County Integrated Regional Water Management Plan include the County of Orange, the cities of Aliso Viejo, Dana Point, Laguna Beach, Laguna Hills, Laguna Niguel, Laguna Woods, Lake Forest, Mission Viejo, Rancho Santa Margarita, San Clemente, and San Juan Capistrano, and the El Toro Water District, Irvine Ranch Water District, Laguna Beach County Water District, Moulton Niguel Water District, Municipal Water District of Orange County, Santa Margarita Water District, South Coast Water District, South Orange County Wastewater Authority, and Trabuco Canyon Water District.

At the local level, the South Orange County Integrated Regional Water Management Plan has been used to obtain funding from the State of California to support the Dairy Fork Constructed Wetland Project ($500,000) and the El Toro Water District’s Recycled Water Expansion Project ($4,624,915).

What is the South Orange County Water Quality Improvement Plan?

The South Orange County Water Quality Improvement Plan identifies high-priority water quality conditions for watersheds within the San Juan Hydrologic Unit (in Laguna Woods, the Aliso Creek and Laguna Coastal Streams watersheds) and sets goals, strategies, and schedules to address them. For additional information on the South Orange County Water Quality Improvement Plan, including how to participate in outreach efforts, please click here to visit the County of Orange’s OC Watersheds website.

Which agency is responsible for drinking water quality?

The El Toro Water District, a separately incorporated special district, provides all water and wastewater service in Laguna Woods. For information on drinking water quality and reliability, please click here to visit the El Toro Water District’s website or call (949) 837-0660.

How can I report water pollution/waste?

Water pollution/waste can be reported via our online report form, by calling City Hall at (949) 639-0500, or by calling the countywide water pollution hotline at (877) 89-SPILL (77455). For over-irrigation and other water waste complaints, the City also encourages reporting parties to contact the El Toro Water District by clicking here or calling (949) 837-0660 option 6.

Best Management Practices

Best Management Practices Design Manual (Aliso Creek and Laguna Coastal Streams Watersheds Only)

In accordance with Provision F.2.b of the San Diego Regional Water Quality Control Board NPDES Permit, a Best Management Practices (BMP) Design Manual is available as a resource to assist project applicants and agency staff with addressing post-construction urban runoff and stormwater pollution from new development and significant redevelopment projects that qualify as priority development projects. The BMP Design Manual consists of the following documents, which can be accessed by clicking here to visit the County of Orange’s Water Quality Improvement Plan (WQIP) Reginal Clearinghouse website:

  • City of Laguna Woods’ Jurisdictional Runoff Management Plan (JRMP)
  • Model Water Quality Management Plan (WQMP)
  • Technical Guidance Document (TGD)
  • Hydromodification Management Plan (HMP)
Best Management Practices for Commercial and Industrial Business Activities

Please click here to access best management practices for commercial and industrial business activities. For additional information, please contact the Planning & Environmental Services Department at (949) 639-0500 or via our online contact form.

Best Management Practices for Common Interest Area and Homeowners Association Activities

Please click here to access best management practices for common interest area and homeowners association activities. For additional information, please contact the Planning & Environmental Services Department at (949) 639-0500 or via our online contact form.

Best Management Practices for Construction Activities

Please click here to access best management practices for construction activities. For additional information, please contact the Planning & Environmental Services Department at (949) 639-0500 or via our online contact form.

Best Management Practices for New Development and Significant Redevelopment

Please click here to access best management practices for new development and significant redevelopment. For additional information, please contact the Planning & Environmental Services Department at (949) 639-0500 or via our online contact form.

Best Management Practices for Residential Activities

Please click here to access best management practices for residential activities. For additional information, please contact the Planning & Environmental Services Department at (949) 639-0500 or via our online contact form.