Nonpoint Source Pollution: Section 319 Program


Nonpoint source pollution is caused by water moving over and through the ground. As runoff moves, it picks up and carries away natural and human-made pollutants, finally depositing then into lakes, rivers, wetlands, coastal waters, and even underground sources of drinking water.

The Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 319 program provides states, territories, and tribes with grant money to implement Nonpoint Source Management Programs that support and promote collaborative efforts of state, federal, and local agencies as well as private organizations to achieve nonpoint source pollution goals. Nonpoint source programs include the management or regulation of forestry, agriculture, grazing, transportation, recreation, hydro-modification, marinas, urban development, land use planning, fish and wildlife habitat, riparian and wetlands protection and restoration, public education, and other activities that affect the quality of state waters. Section 319 program funds provide for nonpoint source pollution mitigation actions in all watersheds but most funds are directed to impaired watersheds (listed under CWA Section 303(d) with active Total Maximum Daily Load, or TMDL(s).

How can I use Clean Water Act Section 319 to protect drinking water sources?

Section 319 funds are allocated through state Nonpoint Source Management Programs, which provide a framework for addressing water quality impacts from nonpoint sources of pollution through Nonpoint Source Management Program Plans and Watershed Based Plans. Development of these plans follows a watershed planning approach which draws heavily from stakeholder input and watershed assessments to identify management activities that best address the sources and drivers of pollution, given the socioeconomic and physical context. Drinking water stakeholders can help state environmental agencies incorporate source water protection in Nonpoint Source Management Program Plans and Watershed-Based Plans by providing high quality source water (source water quality data, utility closures, water intake locations, etc.) and pollution data during plan development and implementation. Stakeholders should also develop proposals for nonpoint source pollution mitigation projects that limit impacts on downstream drinking water sources to be included in Nonpoint Source Management Program Plans.

  • Share source water, water quality, pollution, and other watershed information to help states plan for source water protections in Nonpoint Source Management Program Plans and Watershed-Based Plans
  • Present proposals to states for NPS projects that limit impacts of NPS pollution on downstream drinking water sources

Opportunities for involvement

The public is encouraged to submit project proposals, comments, recommendations, and data to state agencies during development of Nonpoint Source Management Program Plans, updated every five years. Find more information at your state environmental agency website, found here.

For more information on protecting drinking water through the Clean Water Act, see Opportunities to Protect Drinking Water and Advance Watershed Goals through the Clean Water Act: A Toolkit for State, Interstate, Tribal, and Federal Water Program Managers.