The Misson of BASMAA

* The following description of BASMAA was originally written for Watersheds 96 in Baltimore. The text has since been updated only enough to keep it current so as not to diverge from the original any more than necessary.

In 1990, local governments across the country were told by the federal government to make a wheel (i.e., stormwater management program). The federal government specified what the parts of the wheel should be made of, when and how to make it and why it was needed.

In response, each local government started to make its wheel. But local governments found that making a wheel was not a simple process and that it was going to take much longer and require more materials than they had anticipated. It might even require materials from places and sources that they were not aware of or did not have access to normally.

In the San Francisco Bay Area, as each local government got started on its wheel, it noticed that other local governments were also making wheels. First two, then three, and eventually nine local governments decided that while each was making its wheel, wouldn't it be more cost-effective to make a cart, rather than reinvent the wheel. Hence, the idea for a regional alliance was born.

What is BASMAA?

The Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association (BASMAA), is a consortium of the following nine San Francisco Bay Area municipal stormwater programs: 

In addition to the members listed above, other agencies, such as the California Department of Transportation (Caltrans) and the City and County of San Francisco (combined sewer system), participate in some BASMAA activities. Together, these agencies represent more than 100 agencies, including 85 cities and towns, 8 counties, and 7 special districts, and the bulk of the watershed immediately surrounding San Francisco Bay.


BASMAA was started by local governments in response to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program for stormwater in an effort to promote regional consistency and to facilitate efficient use of public resources. The organization grew from the bottom up to focus on regional challenges and opportunities to improving the quality of stormwater runoff to the San Francisco Bay and Delta.

BASMAA is designed to encourage information sharing and cooperation, and to develop products and programs that would be more cost-effective done regionally than could be accomplished locally. In addition, BASMAA provides a forum for representing and advocating the common interests of member programs at the regional and state level.

BASMAA's History

Over its brief history BASMAA has evolved from an organization that promotes talking to each other, to one that shares information and resources, to one that does things together, and finally to an organization that does things with agencies and organizations outside of BASMAA itself.

How is BASMAA Organized?

BASMAA is structured similarly to any local stormwater program with committees covering everything from new development to monitoring to public information/participation. BASMAA's organization chart consists of a Board representing the nine municipal programs and the following two administrative and six technical committees that report to the Board:


  • Audit Committee
  • Finance Committee


  • Development Committee
  • Monitoring / Pollutants of Concern (POCs) Committee
  • Municipal Operations Committee
  • Phase II Committee
  • Public Information/Participation Committee
  • Trash Committee

The Executive Director and a small team of contractors are staff to BASMAA. The Executive Director reports to the Board and acts as liaison between the BASMAA committees and the Board, between the committees themselves, and between BASMAA and other organizations and agencies.

How Does BASMAA Work?

Originally in 1989, the member programs of BASMAA all agreed to the terms of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that set policy on member's roles and responsibilities, and described the purpose and basic operations (e.g., voting, dues) of the organization. Each year BASMAA collected dues from its members for a "baseline" program. The baseline program provided for staff (Executive Director) and funded baseline projects (i.e., projects endorsed by all member storwater programs).

In addition, the BASMAA MOU provided a means for two or more of the member programs, or other organizations, to agree to contribute additional funds to do "tasks of regional benefit." This option allowed regional or subregional projects to go forward absent a unanimous endorsement by all of the member programs.

The MOU was replaced by a set of Bylaws when BASMAA decided to become a 501(c)(3) non-profit in 2009. Although it is more formally an organization now than it was in the 1990s and 2000s, BASMAA essentially operates the same as it did back then.

Typically, the BASMAA Board and its committees meet monthly on a regular schedule to share information, discuss issues, and manage projects and programs. BASMAA does some projects and programs in-house using BASMAA staff and volunteer time from staff of the member stormwater programs. In other cases, BASMAA hires consultants to carry out new projects and programs.

Along with its member programs, BASMAA has been grappling with how to implement the stormwater regulations, which cut across typical departmental boundaries, programs, and lines of communication. To do so, these programs have used essentially a watershed approach involving as many stakeholders as possible and building consensus. Now BASMAA and some of its more mature NPDES permitted programs are expanding the envelope to deal with agencies, issues, and programs that are one step removed from those that they initially focused on. This model alliance that initially focused on urban stormwater is now:

  • working with the regional air quality district in linking air quality to water quality.
  • working to strengthen the integration of stormwater and wastewater.
  • working with trade associations to develop practical industrial/commercial water quality programs.
  • working with rural-focused agencies and programs in the upper watersheds.

Why We Do These Things

BASMAA does these things not because it or its member stormwater programs want to expand their purview and influence but because the linkages to these other areas of our environment and the agencies/organizations that deal with them make for more cost-effective urban stormwater programs, let alone more cost-effective environmental programs in general.

BASMAA also works closely with the regional regulator -- the San Francisco Bay Regional Water Quality Control Board and the regional estuary research groupĀ­ -- SFEI (San Francisco Estuary Institute). In addition, BASMAA works with other regions in the state and with the next level of government up by participating in the California Stormwater Quality Association (CASQA) (nee California Storm Water Quality Task Force). At the national level, BASMAA members participate in nationwide associations like the Water Environment Federation (WEF) and National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies (NAFSMA).


As part of California's efforts to fulfill the requirements of the 1990 Coastal Zone Management Act amendments, the State convened 10 multi-interest technical advisory committees (TACs) organized by a range of issues related to water quality management including urban runoff, irrigated agriculture, pesticide management, rangelands, abandoned mines, and confined animal facilities. Each of the TACs produced a report including recommendations for the State to use in developing its coastal nonpoint source pollution control plan. The common themes in those TAC reports were:

  • Volunteer cooperation.
  • Public education.
  • Management on a watershed scale.
  • Technical assistance.
  • Agency coordination.

California in turn has made a commitment to using a watershed approach in managing and protecting the State's water resources. A model alliance such as the Bay Area Stormwater Management Agencies Association is an example of how these themes can be implemented as part of watershed protection, and how we can move ahead together.