The Federal Water Pollution Control Act prohibits the discharge of any pollutant to navigable waters (Waters of the U.S.) from a point source unless the discharge is authorized by a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit. The 1987 amendments to the Clean Water Act established NPDES permit requirements for the discharges of stormwater. The NPDES permit program controls water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States.
Industrial facilities and construction sites are regulated by the State Water Resources Control Board, through general stormwater permits. Cities and counties are regulated through permits issued by the Regional Water Quality Control Boards. Since 1990, operators of large storm drain systems such as Fullerton's have been required to:
- Develop a stormwater management program designed to prevent harmful pollutants from being dumped or washed by stormwater runoff into the stormwater system, then discharged into local waterbodies; and
- Obtain a National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit.
The NPDES permit programs in California are administered by the State Water Resources Control Board and by nine regional boards that issue NPDES permits and enforce regulations within their respective region.
Fullerton lies within the jurisdiction of the Santa Ana Region. This regional board issues permits to the Orange County Permittees, which includes the County of Orange, Orange County Flood Control District and incorporated cities of Orange County. Since the program's inception, the County of Orange has served as the "principal permittee".Cities, such as Fullerton, have been “co-permittee” with the County of Orange.