Water quality individual permits

Individual water quality permits are written for one specific entity where discharge characteristics are variable and do not fit a general permit category.

We issue two types of individual permits, depending on the location of a facility's discharge:

  • National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits cover discharge to surface waters.
  • State Waste Discharge Permits (SWD) regulate discharge to either groundwater or publicly-owned treatment works (POTW).

In some cases, we issue a combined SWD/NPDES permit when a facility discharges to both ground and surface waters.

What does a permit include?

Both types of permits contain standard or general conditions based on federal and state laws.

These include:

  • Discharge limits for specific pollutants
  • Monitoring and reporting requirements
  • Operation and maintenance requirements

We may develop other special conditions depending on past performance. A fact sheet accompanies all permits to explain each individual permit requirement.

Individual National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits

We issue NPDES individual permits for all municipalities and industries discharging wastewater to surface water. We might include stormwater discharges from an industrial facility under the individual permit when coverage requirements are not met for the industrial stormwater general permit.

In January 2018, we clarified in a letter that small scale prospecting and mining requires NPDES permit coverage. Prospectors may apply for coverage under an individual NPDES permit using the application forms below. The Washington State Department of Fish & Wildlife (WDFW) also regulates small scale prospecting and mining under the state’s Hydraulic Code. In 2019, WDFW updated rules for this activity.

Water quality pollution trading

Pollution trading, sometimes called water quality credit trading, uses the market concept to help achieve water quality goals. This is a potential option for permittees trying to meet effluent limits.  

Individual State Waste Discharge (SWD) permit categories

Municipal to groundwater

These permits cover municipalities that discharge to groundwater through processes such as land treatment or infiltration.

Industrial to groundwater

These permits cover industries that discharge to groundwater through processes such as land treatment or infiltration.

Industrial to publicly-owned treatment works (POTW)

These permits, also called pretreatment permits, cover industries that discharge their process wastewater to public sewage treatment plants, excluding industrial stormwater. We are responsible for issuing both the industrial state waste discharge permit and the discharge permit for the POTW. These permits could be a state waste discharge permit or a NPDES permit.

Pretreatment delegation

“Delegated” municipalities are responsible for writing the discharge permits for industries discharging to their POTW. We delegate this authority to some large municipalities. However, we are still responsible for writing and managing the permits for the POTW. This process requires extensive coordination with us and can take several years.

This is a part of the NPDES delegation program. For guidance, refer to our pretreatment tools

401 Water Quality certifications

We approve, condition, or deny projects proposed in Washington's surface waters to assure compliance with state water quality standards. We have this authority under the federal Clean Water Act.

We also approve, condition, or deny projects proposed in waters of the United States. This includes wetlands when a federal permit is needed. 

We also issue certifications for federal facilities and hydropower dams.

Application forms

Contacts for assistance

Joy Espinoza
Central Region Permit Coordinator

Shara Joy
Eastern Region Permit Coordinator

Tricia Miller
Northwest Region Permit Coordinator


Alisha Mckittrick
Southwest Region Permit Administrator