Water Quality Permitting in Idaho
Idaho's surface waters not only provide beautiful scenery, water to drink, and a place to fish and boat; they also provide hydroelectric power, a receptacle for wastewater, and a highway for commerce. While these uses provide great benefits, they can also alter and pollute the waters. Permits or licenses are required to conduct many of these types of operations to ensure compliance with all state and federal water pollution control laws, regulations, and rules and to protect public health and the environment. Permits set the conditions under which facilities that generate water pollution may operate. Responsibility for issuing water quality permits in Idaho depends upon the type of permit issued.
Federal-Issued Water Quality Permits
The federal government has jurisdiction over the following three major types of water quality permits in Idaho:
- National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) Permits: NPDES permits regulate point sources that discharge pollutants into surface waters. Point sources are discrete conveyances such as pipes or man-made ditches. EPA issues NPDES permits. Learn more.
- Dredge and Fill Permits: Dredge and fill permits regulate the discharge of dredged and fill material into waters of the U.S., including wetlands. Individual and general dredge and fill permits may be issued only when applicants have demonstrated that no practicable alternative is available and that wetlands have been protected to the maximum extent possible. EPA and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers share jurisdiction over the Dredge and Fill Permit Program. Learn more.
- Hydroelectric Power Licenses: The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC) regulates nearly all privately and publicly (non-federal) owned hydroelectric projects in the United States and has jurisdiction over the Hydropower Licensing/Re-Licensing Program in Idaho. When existing project licenses are due to expire, FERC evaluates the impact of these projects on the environment and determines whether they should be re-licensed. Learn more.
DEQ's role in each of these federal permitting processes is to certify that the proposed permits meet state water quality standards. Learn more about the 401 certification process.
State-Issued Water Quality Permits
- Wastewater Reuse Permits: Wastewater reuse consists of spent or used water from a home, community, farm, or industry that contains dissolved or suspended matter. Wastewater reuse may contain any of a number of types of chemicals and, in some cases, human pathogens. To protect public health and prevent pollution of surface and ground waters, anyone wishing to land-apply or otherwise use recycled water must obtain a recycled water permit before constructing, modifying, or operating a reuse facility in the state. Learn more.
- Swine Facilities Permits: Swine facilities are regulated by DEQ to ensure animal waste from the facilities is properly controlled so as not to adversely affect public health or the environment. A permit must be obtained to construct, operate, close, or expand a swine facility. Learn more.
Local-Issued Water Quality Permits
Local governments and public health districts play an important role in protecting water quality in the state.
- Wastewater Pretreatment Permit: As a condition of an NPDES permit, a municipality that operates a wastewater treatment plant is required to operate a pretreatment program. An industrial or commercial business that discharges or plans to discharge wastewater to a municipal sewer system may be subject to the city's pretreatment requirements and may be required to obtain an industrial wastewater permit from the local governing unit. Check with your local public works department to determine whether this requirement is applicable in your area.
- Septage Tank Pumper Permit: Under a Memorandum of Understanding Between DEQ and Health District Departments, authority for inspecting and permitting domestic septage tank pumpers rests with the Public Health Districts.