Element 4 - NPDES Permits

GIS is an important component of the Water Protection Program permitting process, used in a variety of ways to help develop protective permits and permit information. Through its data layers GIS can provide critically important information on permitted facilities and the area surrounding those facilities, which will be discussed further in this section. GIS is used throughout the permitting process from pre-permitting activities to permit drafting and issuance for general and site-specific permits. With the WPP’s transition to a watershed-based approach for permitting and the use of ePermitting, the role and importance of GIS is growing in the permitting process.

As noted above, GIS is used in a variety of ways to help develop protective permits. GIS tools are used through the WPP’s interactive Map Viewer and through ArcGIS. Through its data layers GIS can provide a variety of information necessary to develop a permit as well as other information which is useful after the issuance of a permit. A few examples of this data are: locational information such as UTM coordinates; public land survey system information; permit information such as permit number, type, and ownership, addresses; water body information such as water body identification number, water body name, HUC, ecological drainage area, stream impairments and gaining/losing stream designations.

The majority of permit writers use the customized map viewer to gain information related to the facility and the applicable surrounding conditions. The customized map viewer was developed by the state’s Information Technology Services Division, and contains a wide variety of information related to the Water Protection Program and the facilities that are permitted. The information in map viewer related to permitted facilities is pulled from MoCWIS, so all the locational information needed for writing a permit is readily available to permit writers. The customized map viewer is the most common GIS tool used by permit writers. However, ArcGIS is also available for answering more complex questions, such as permitted feature verification in MoCWIS, and to create maps for complex sites when requested.

Prior to a permit being drafted, GIS is used in the antidegradation review process. This process uses GIS for determining existing dischargers around a proposed new treatment plant. If there are existing treatment plants, it adds a question on why connection to an existing facility was not pursued. Another use for GIS during the antidegradation process is to see if the stream is losing, located in a sinkhole area, on the 303(d) Impaired Waters List, if there are designated uses that need to be considered in the development of effluent limits, and to help determine the existing water quality and assimilative capacity of the receiving stream. If the proposed discharge is new and in an area without many other dischargers, GIS has been used to determine the direction water flows to determine the first classified stream. In the antidegradation review GIS is focused on characterizing the area and the stream, based on the preliminary outfall location. In the figure below, the map represents a proposed discharger wanting to disconnect from one treatment plant (KC Birmingham) and build their own treatment plant. By mapping the stream segment, it shows there are multiple dischargers in that segment of the Missouri River.

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Figure 1: Missouri River dischargers around the proposed Liberty WWTP

When a permit is being drafted, GIS is used in characterizing the receiving stream and the actual location with Universal Transverse Meracator, or UTM, coordinates, including the legal description (i.e. NW ¼, NW ¼, Sec. 13, T51N, R34W or landgrant #2379). By plotting the UTM coordinates or selecting the permit number, the mapping programs place a locational mark on the map. Using the data layers available, a permit writer can get information related to the facility, including the information above and the ecological drainage unit (EDU) name, HUC, and impairment.

Many counties in the state have developed online GIS systems, which are also used by permit writers. An example of an online county GIS system is the one developed by Jasper County, which can be used to help determine ownership of areas that include a wastewater treatment facility.

There are permits issued by the department that have a large number of permitted features associated with them, such as the MS4 permits or combined sewer overflow (CSO) permits. The locations are given by the permittee, usually in GPS coordinates, and then it’s the permit writer’s responsibility by using GIS to get all the information required for the permit. Location information is required in the permit and MOCWIS, thus all permitting information regarding location is needed, as there may be monitoring requirements in the permit tied to a specific permitted feature. The blue triangles below are the location of Kansas City’s combined sewer overflows. The map shows that the combined sewer overflow locations cover a large area and may be close together or separated by a distance, or may be next to a major river (ie: the Blue or Missouri rivers) or in the middle of a neighborhood.

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Figure 2: Kansas City Combined Sewer Overflow Locations

During the drafting of a permit, public notice, and issuance process, GIS is used to verify that the locational information listed in the permit matches the information entered into MoCWIS. As noted before, this location information includes the receiving stream, first class stream, HUC, UTMS, and legal description. To ensure this locational information is corresponding correctly trained GIS users utilize ArcGIS to verify the permitted features listed in the permit match MoCWIS. These staff members are required to notate that the locational information is correct in MoCWIS prior to the issuance of the permit draft.

Besides being used in site specific permits, GIS is important in the general permit process to ensure the general permit requirements are met (ie: not located in a losing stream or Outstanding National Resource stream). A new component of the Water Protection Program’s use of GIS is the ePermitting process for land disturbance permits, which allows the applicant to draw the shape of the proposed location on a 1:24,000 map and then the electronic processing makes determinations about where the runoff will flow. This is a new process for the program and department, but is expected to grow to include more general permits. Allowing the permittee to draw their location and then having an autofill in the background of all the locational information tied to pour points will increase efficiency and allow applicants to get their permits quicker.

As the Water Protection Program is a large program covering different aspects of water pollution (industrial, municipal, stormwater, etc), permit staff are often asked to make maps detailing the locations of certain types of permits, such as CAFOs. This information is used in public meetings, discussions, on the department’s webpage, and educational opportunities to answer questions and to help with planning.


Figure 3: Animal Feeding Operations Map

Besides permits of a certain type, maps detailing permits in the state are often requested to help with regional planning, TMDL development and modeling, and monitoring schedules and/or inspections. The figure below of Lake of the Ozarks shows a map put together by request for a list of all the permitted facilities around Lake Ozark State Park. By creating the map in GIS, the department was not only able to provide the map but also an excel spreadsheet of permittees, permit addresses, owner’s names and addresses, and design flows of facilities displayed on the map.

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Figure 4: Dischargers around Lake Ozark State Park

The department is expanding its use of GIS as it implements permit synchronization, which is an effort to have all the permits in a specific watershed expire at the same time allowing permits to be managed on a watershed basis. An example where the capabilities of GIS will be used in making permit decisions is the Spring River Watershed located in southwest Missouri which includes portions of Barry, Barton, Christian, Dade, Jasper, Lawrence, Newton and Stone counties and various cities such as Carthage, Neosho and Joplin. This is an interstate watershed that originates in Missouri then flows downstream into southeastern Kansas before being received by the Grand Lake O’ the Cherokees in Oklahoma. In Missouri, the Spring River watershed is 2,271 square miles and contains 331 miles of permanent flow with 188 miles of intermittent streams and numerous losing streams and springs. Impairments within the watershed include bacteria, metals, nutrients and biological impairments. By synchronizing permits in this watershed, the department has the opportunity to implement TMDLs in the basin at the same time, work on addressing the historical issues, begin addressing water quantity issues and conduct monitoring in the appropriate locations. In addition to TMDLS for Missouri, there are also TMDLS in Kansas which may need to be incorporated into some Missouri permits. In the portion of the Spring River watershed below, the information extracted from ArcGIS includes wastewater outfalls, stormwater outfalls, CAFOs, losing streams, 303(d)Impaired Waters List streams, MS4 permits, unclassified streams, drinking water wells, and the towns located within it.

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Figure 5: Spring River Watershed

GIS is used in a variety of ways to help develop protective permits and permit information. GIS is used throughout the process of permit writing, from pre-permitting activities to permit drafting, and all the way to the issuance for general and site specific permits. With the program’s transition to a watershed-based approach for permitting and the use of ePermitting, the role and importance of GIS will continue to grow in the permitting process.