The Misson of BASMAA

In 1990, local governments across the country were told by the federal government to make a wheel (i.e., storm water 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 now seven 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 eight San Francisco Bay Area municipal storm water 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 90 agencies, including 79 cities and 6 counties, and the bulk of the watershed immediately surrounding San Francisco Bay.

Why BASMAA?

BASMAA was started by local governments in response to the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting program for storm water 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 storm water 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 storm water program with committees covering everything from new development to monitoring to public information/participation. BASMAA's organization chart consists of a Board representing the seven municipal programs and the following four committees that report to the Board:

  • Monitoring Committee
  • New Development Committee
  • Public Information/Participation Committee
  • Operational Permits Committee

The Executive Director is staff to BASMAA. He 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?

The seven member programs of BASMAA have all agreed to the terms of a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that sets policy on member's roles and responsibilities, and describes the purpose and basic operations (e.g., voting, dues) of the organization. Each year BASMAA collects dues from its members for a "baseline" program. The baseline program provides for staff (Executive Director) and finances baseline projects (i.e., projects endorsed by all member storm water programs).

In addition, the BASMAA MOU provides 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 allows regional or subregional projects to go forward absent a unanimous endorsement by the seven member programs.

Typically, the BASMAA Board and four 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 storm water 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 storm water 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 storm water is now:

  • working with the regional air quality district in linking air quality to water quality.
  • working to strengthen the integration of storm water 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 storm water 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 storm water 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 group­SFEI (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 Storm Water Quality Task Force. At the national level, BASMAA members participate in nationwide associations like the Water Environment Federation and National Association of Flood and Stormwater Management Agencies.

BASMAA As A Model

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.