What is nonpoint source pollution?
Traditional images of pollution are often of a pipe conveying water into a river or stream. Nonpoint source pollution comes from many sources and is caused by rainfall or snowmelt moving over and through the ground that picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, depositing them into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and ground waters.
Examples of NPS pollution
- Excess fertilizer nutrients (nitrogen, phosphorus) from agricultural lands and residential areas
- Sediment from improperly managed construction sites, crop and forest lands, and eroding stream banks
- Sediment from physical alterations of stream banks and channels, for example, straightening streams, constructing/removing dams or levees
- Pathogens and nutrients from livestock, pet wastes and faulty septic systems
- Oil, grease, toxic chemicals, and salts from urban runoff
- Pesticides from agricultural lands and residential areas
- Atmospheric deposition of nutrients and other pollutants
Nonpoint Source Program Goal
The goals of the Nonpoint Source (NPS) Program are to control pollution from nonpoint sources to the waters of the state and to protect, maintain and restore waters of the state that are vulnerable to, or are impaired by nonpoint source pollution. NY's NPS Pollution Program was updated and approved by EPA in 2020, Nonpoint Source Management Program (PDF).
Nonpoint Source Program Objectives
Develop Watershed Plans
Numerous watershed plans have been developed throughout New York to characterize and identify watershed impairments and to provide recommendations and strategies to address water quality concerns. The most comprehensive watershed plans are consistent with EPA's nine key elements. These plans are similar to total maximum daily load (TMDL) plans to improve water quality, both plans: identify and quantify pollution sources, estimate pollutant reductions needed to achieve water quality targets and recommend best management practices (BMP) to be implemented. Nine Element Watershed Plans are approved by NYSDEC.
Implement Watershed Projects
Watershed projects are implemented to reduce nonpoint source pollution through a combination of state, local or federal assistance. DEC supports the implementation of watershed projects through the NYS Environmental Protection Fund and other funding opportunities. DEC tracks agricultural and non-agricultural NPS state-funded watershed projects (including pollutant load reduction estimates) through the Grant Reporting Tracking System (GRTS).
Monitor Water Quality
New York evaluates water quality issues related to nonpoint sources within the context of its Statewide Waters Monitoring and Assessment Program (SWMP). DEC also supports nonpoint source-related water quality assessment activities undertaken by county, municipal, watershed coalition, and citizen volunteer programs.
Protect and Restore Waters
By controlling and abating new and existing sources of nonpoint source pollution, DEC conserves and protects from nonpoint source pollution all waters of the state, including surface and ground waters, for all public beneficial uses. By supporting the strategic implementation of watershed projects, impaired waters, as identified in the NYS Waterbody Inventory/Priority Waterbodies List (WI/PWL) and the federal Section 303(d) list of impaired waters, are restored and/or partially restored, leading to their removal from these lists.
Integrate NPS Management into Other State and Local Programs
DEC promotes integration of NPS Program priorities into other applicable state, local and federal programs by participating in advisory committees with partner agencies and integrating NPS program priorities into regulatory programs.
Provide Guidance and Technical Assistance
DEC supports revisions to the nonpoint management practices catalog, development of nonpoint source related standards and guidance by the USDA-NRCS, and other NPS-related guidance.
Best Management Practices to Address NPS Pollution
Best Management Practices (BMPs) are measures determined to be efficient, practical, and cost-effective to guide a particular implementation activity to address sources of nonpoint pollution. Nonpoint source BMPs are specific practices or activities used to reduce or control impacts to waters from nonpoint sources, by reducing the loading of pollutants from such sources through storm water runoff and infiltration into surface and ground waters.
- Riparian buffers
- Stream bank stabilization
- Soil health (conservation tillage, cover crops on agricultural lands)
- Rain gardens
- Green roofs