Water quality general permits

General water quality permits regulate specific discharge categories with similar characteristics that release treated stormwater or wastewater to either surface or groundwater. A general permit allows a unified approach to regulating similar facilities or industries, and can simplify the permitting process. This has the potential to save the facility or industry and our agency's time and resources.

Categories may include point source discharges from a specific industry, operation, or facility, like wineries, large construction projects, fresh fruit packing operations, irrigation districts, or boatyards, to name a few. There are currently over 20 water quality general permits.

Receive email updates

Join our Water Quality Partnership email list to receive notifications.

What is a general permit?

A general permit is a type of wastewater discharge permit that is developed for a category of discharger instead of an individual facility. Like an individual permit, it is a legally binding contract with us that grants permission to discharge to “waters of the state.” The permit contains discharge limits, monitoring and reporting requirements, and operation and maintenance requirements. It is enforceable and revocable for a cause, such as failing to comply with the responsibilities listed in the permit conditions.

Dischargers covered under general permits know their permit requirements before obtaining coverage. As such, obtaining coverage under a general permit is typically faster than an individual permit. General permits may prove more cost effective, because a large number of facilities may get covered quickly with a general permit. 

Categories of general permits include:

If you do not see your industry covered by one of the general permit categories, you may need coverage under an individual discharge permit.

Find more information about a specific permit 

You may find resources, ways to get involved, and contact information on the permit pages linked above. On these pages permittees can apply for, terminate or modify coverage.

How do the general permits get updated?

Our general permits expire every 5 years. Our permit writer uses an internal permit development team, stakeholder feedback, internal technical expertise, and best professional judgment to develop a new draft permit. We invite public comments on the draft. The permit writer considers those comments when finalizing the permit and includes a response to comments summary in the fact sheet for the draft permit. We then issue the final permit with a 30-day appeal period and an effective date.

What are my opportunities for participation?  How do I make a comment?

Public involvement opportunities may include listening sessions, poster sessions, informal comment periods, and other unique opportunities to engage with the permit writer and the draft permit.

We accept public comments on the draft permits. General permit issuance typically includes a workshop and public hearing. At the events someone can learn about the proposed changes and submit verbal comments by testifying at the public hearing. The public comment period provides the opportunity to comment during the formal hearing and by using an online comment form that is open for at least 30 days, per state law.

You may go to a specific permit page to sign up to receive emailed information on the permits, to include the public comment period, where we accept comments on the permit during the issuance/reissuance phase.

Steps in water quality permit development process

  1. Working with an internal permit development team
  2. Drafting the permit language
  3. Public comment period
  4. Considering and integrating comments and writing a response to comments for the fact sheet for the draft permit
  5. Issuing the permit
  6. 30 day appeal period
  7. Permit effective

What permit reissuances are coming up?

Visit the permit page for more details.

Looking for your permit application status?

For permit application or Notice of Intent (NOI) status, please contact your permit administrator or manager listed on the appropriate permit page above.