Water Quality Permitting and Compliance

Water quality matters encompass a broad spectrum of legal issues, including regulatory and enforcement proceedings before agencies under both the state and federal laws. The Ellison Schneider Harris & Donlan Water Practice Group is experienced in handling water quality matters concerning both surface and groundwater issues. We represent clients in permit processing and negotiations in the following water quality arenas:

Waste Discharge Requirements/NPDES Permits

In California, in order to lawfully discharge either on land or in surface water, authority from the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) must be obtained. Generally, waste discharge requirements are needed to discharge waste to land, and National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permits administered by the RWQCB on behalf of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency are needed to discharge waste to surface waters.

Section 401 - Water Quality Certifications

If seeking a federal permit, such as a 404 permit, NPDES permit, or Federal Energy Regulatory Commission permit, applicants must also seek certification under section 401 of the Clean Water Act to ensure the activities comply with state and federal water quality standards. Applicants must seek this certification from either the RWQCB or SWRCB.

Total Maximum Daily Loads

The Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) program is a federal program intended to establish compliance with water quality objectives for surface water (typically due to non-point source discharges) affecting “impacted” water bodies. Due to the potential for far-reaching impacts from this program, almost any entity within a watershed may find itself involved in TMDL programs.

Section 404 - Dredge and Fill Permits

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE) must issue a permit pursuant to section 404 of the Clean Water Act for activities such as installation of diversion structures, dredging activities, or the filling of wetlands. The USACE conditions permits to limit and/or mitigate the impacts caused by such activities.