Building codes and local government ordinances vary greatly on the handling of the way gutter & sewage systems handle storm drain runoff. New developments might be required to construct their own storm drain processing capacity for returning the runoff to the water table and bioswales may be required in sensitive ecological areas to protect the watershed.
In the United States, cities, suburban communities and towns with over 10,000 population are required to obtain discharge permits for their storm sewer & gutter systems, under the Clean Water Act. The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) issued stormwater regulations for large cities in 1990 and for other communities in 1999. The permits require local governments to operate stormwater management programs, covering both construction of new buildings and facilities, and maintenance of their existing municipal drainage networks. Many municipalities have revised their local ordinances covering management of runoff. State government facilities, such as roads and highways, are also subject to the stormwater management regulations. Many local municipalities have placed ordinances for both commercial and residential stormwater management practices to be designed, implemented, and approved before an occupancy permit is released.
In several large American cities, homeless people live in storm drains. At least 300 people live in the 200 miles of underground storm drains of Las Vegas, many of them making a living finding unclaimed winnings in the gambling machines. An organization called Shine a Light was founded in 2009 to help the drain residents after over 20 drowning deaths occurred in the preceding years. A man in San Diego was evicted from a storm drain after living there for nine months in 1986.