We spent four years working with stakeholders to develop the Winery General Permit. The permit was issued on May 17, 2018, goes into effect on July 1, 2019, and expires on July 1, 2024. You can find a summary of our public and stakeholder involvement below.
Also, we have included some frequently asked questions (FAQs) to help explain the process and help industry professionals comply with the permit.
Since 2014, we have worked closely with Washington’s wineries and industry experts to get to know Washington’s diverse wine industry. We learned about wineries’ current waste management systems and listened to concerns about complying with a new permit. Based on these discussions and feedback, we developed the Winery General Permit and Fact Sheet.
We worked closely with a technical advisory workgroup comprised of winery owners (both large and small) and industry experts. In addition, we conducted surveys of the wine industry, presented to several different stakeholder groups, and toured and interviewed dozens of wineries. All of this input was crucial to the development of the draft general permit.
We understand that permit requirements can add a financial burden to businesses. Based on the input we received, we took action to reduce these costs by adjusting permit requirements.
Some of these changes included:
- Reduced sampling and reporting requirements
- Limiting who is required to apply for a permit, for example, small wineries and those discharging to designated treatment plants
- Phasing in some permit requirements
Public comment & review
In April 2017, we shared a preliminary draft and invited input from the public during a 60-day comment period. We took the feedback, made improvements to the permit, and in November 2017, shared the formal draft of the general permit and other permit development documents. An extended comment period (100+ days) was offered to allow wineries ample time to review the permit development documents.
We also hosted a total of four public hearings. The hearings were located in Central Washington, near Seattle, and online in the form of webinars for those unable to travel. The feedback we received was constructive, helpful, and even positive. The comments and our responses to them are located in the Fact Sheet - Addendum Response to Comments.
Old draft permit documents
Previous focus sheets
Frequently asked questions (FAQ)
Winery process wastewater is any water that, during wine manufacturing or processing, comes in direct contact with, or results from, the production or use of any raw material, intermediate product, finished product, byproduct, or waste product. It may include:
- Pomace (for example, grape skins, stems, and seeds).
- Lees (deposits of dead or residual yeast and other particles that accumulate at the bottom of a vat of wine after fermentation and aging).
- Bottle and barrel rinse water, and equipment or floor wash water.
Winery process wastewater has the potential to contaminate groundwater, which is where many of us get our drinking water. Contamination can occur if a winery’s septic tank and drainfield system fails, if their wastewater lagoon leaks, or if they use too much untreated wastewater to irrigate their crops.
Winery process wastewater can also overwhelm wastewater treatment plants, potentially causing untreated sewage to flow into Puget Sound, rivers, and groundwater.
The wine industry is growing rapidly so there is a need for standardized wastewater management requirements. The principal reason for a new winery general permit is to manage wastewater and to protect waters of the state (groundwater and surface water).
Our goal is to develop a general permit that protects water quality, supports a strong economy, and meets the needs of the wine industry.
We heard from representatives of wineries that the vast majority of Washington wineries have very low annual production volumes and are already heavily regulated. In the proposed draft, we included flexibility, compliance options, benchmarks, and scaled requirements for small producers and existing facilities. The proposed draft permit focuses on best management practices and data collection.