State Water Quality Control Board to Consider General Waste Discharge Requirements for Recycled Water Use on June 3, 2014

by Latham & Watkins LLP

On June 3, 2014, partially in response to lingering drought conditions throughout the state, the California State Water Resources Control Board (“SWRCB”) will consider adopting a “general” waste discharge requirements (“WDR”) permit for the use of treated recycled water for non-potable uses such as agricultural irrigation, landscape irrigation, dust control, and certain industrial processes.[1]  If adopted, the proposed General WDR for Recycled Water Use (the “General Order”) will be the first state permit that applies to uses of recycled water beyond just landscape irrigation.  Previously, all other recycled water uses required an individual WDR permit.[2]  The General Order will be of significant interest for municipal and private water producers and distributors, as well as entities that plan to purchase and use recycled water as a part of their operations.

While the General Order is an important step in helping California to achieve its water use goals by increasing use of recycled water, it does not establish general WDR requirements for some of the most significant opportunities to meet use goals: replenishment of groundwater resources, disposal of treated wastewater at percolation ponds, or the use of recycled water for domestic or animal water supply.  Despite this, the General Order should help expand uses of recycled water for agricultural irrigation and industrial processes in the state and could serve as a useful blueprint for a future general order that would cover WDRs for expanded recycled water use in areas of recharge and potable reuse.


Under California law, dischargers of waste, including treated wastewater, are required to comply with the terms of SWRCB– or regional water quality control board-issued WDR permits unless an exemption from those requirements has been granted.[1]  Typically, individual projects apply for a WDR permit as necessary; treated wastewater uses, other than landscaping uses covered by a 2009 General WDR[2], have generally been covered by individual WDR permits associated with particular projects.[3]

On January 17, 2014, California’s Governor, Jerry Brown, responded to concerns about low winter rainfall and general water supply availability by declaring a drought state of emergency throughout California.[4]  Bipartisan drought relief legislation was signed on March 1, 2014.[5]  Shortly thereafter, on April 25, 2014, the Governor issued an Executive Order declaring a continued state of emergency and instructing the SWRCB to adopt general WDRs that would facilitate the use of treated wastewater as a potential mechanism to alleviate water supply pressures.[6]  The Executive Order suspended the environmental review process under the California Environmental Quality Act (“CEQA”) allowing expedited adoption of the General Order.[7]

General Functions of the Order

The intent of the General Order is to “streamline the permitting process and delegate the responsibility of administrating water recycling programs to recycled water Producers and/or Distributors to the fullest extent possible.”[8]   The California Department of Public Health (“CDPH”) has established existing statewide water recycling criteria in California Code of Regulations Title 22; the new General Order authorizes particular beneficial non-potable recycled water uses that are consistent with the regulations.[9]  Approved uses may not degrade water bodies to which recycled water is discharged; may not decrease flow in watercourses or cause injury to any legal water user; must utilize best practicable treatment or control for recycled water.[10]  There are also a number of monitoring requirements and recycled water producers may be responsible for preparing an individual Salt and Nutrient Management Plan for the particular WDR permit.[11]

Under the General Order, discretion will lie with the State’s nine regional water quality control boards[12] to enroll dischargers.[13]  The General Order permits the use of treated recycled water for non-potable uses such as agricultural irrigation, landscape irrigation, dust control, and certain industrial processes.  Significantly, it does not authorize use of recycled water to replenish groundwater resources (for example, through use at spreading grounds, percolation ponds, or through groundwater reinjection); disposal of treated wastewater using percolation ponds or hydraulic loading; or use of recycled water for domestic/animal water supply.[14]


The combination of the General Order format, which eliminates the independent CEQA review process to obtain a permit that normally exists for individual WDR permits, and the Executive Order, which frees the General Order from CEQA review, will likely streamline the permit application process, allowing the use of recycled water for purposes such as agricultural irrigation and dust control to occur much more quickly than in the past. 

The General Order will be considered for adoption on June 3, 2014, and a public meeting will be held on that date in Sacramento. If adopted by the State Board, the General Order will go into effect, and will apply to individual applicants at the time that an NOA is issued by the regional water quality control board to which an application is submitted. 


DISCLAIMER: Because of the generality of this update, the information provided herein may not be applicable in all situations and should not be acted upon without specific legal advice based on particular situations.

© Latham & Watkins LLP | Attorney Advertising

Written by:

Latham & Watkins LLP

Latham & Watkins LLP on:

Readers' Choice 2017
Reporters on Deadline

"My best business intelligence, in one easy email…"

Your first step to building a free, personalized, morning email brief covering pertinent authors and topics on JD Supra:
Sign up using*

Already signed up? Log in here

*By using the service, you signify your acceptance of JD Supra's Privacy Policy.
Privacy Policy (Updated: October 8, 2015):

JD Supra provides users with access to its legal industry publishing services (the "Service") through its website (the "Website") as well as through other sources. Our policies with regard to data collection and use of personal information of users of the Service, regardless of the manner in which users access the Service, and visitors to the Website are set forth in this statement ("Policy"). By using the Service, you signify your acceptance of this Policy.

Information Collection and Use by JD Supra

JD Supra collects users' names, companies, titles, e-mail address and industry. JD Supra also tracks the pages that users visit, logs IP addresses and aggregates non-personally identifiable user data and browser type. This data is gathered using cookies and other technologies.

The information and data collected is used to authenticate users and to send notifications relating to the Service, including email alerts to which users have subscribed; to manage the Service and Website, to improve the Service and to customize the user's experience. This information is also provided to the authors of the content to give them insight into their readership and help them to improve their content, so that it is most useful for our users.

JD Supra does not sell, rent or otherwise provide your details to third parties, other than to the authors of the content on JD Supra.

If you prefer not to enable cookies, you may change your browser settings to disable cookies; however, please note that rejecting cookies while visiting the Website may result in certain parts of the Website not operating correctly or as efficiently as if cookies were allowed.

Email Choice/Opt-out

Users who opt in to receive emails may choose to no longer receive e-mail updates and newsletters by selecting the "opt-out of future email" option in the email they receive from JD Supra or in their JD Supra account management screen.


JD Supra takes reasonable precautions to insure that user information is kept private. We restrict access to user information to those individuals who reasonably need access to perform their job functions, such as our third party email service, customer service personnel and technical staff. However, please note that no method of transmitting or storing data is completely secure and we cannot guarantee the security of user information. Unauthorized entry or use, hardware or software failure, and other factors may compromise the security of user information at any time.

If you have reason to believe that your interaction with us is no longer secure, you must immediately notify us of the problem by contacting us at In the unlikely event that we believe that the security of your user information in our possession or control may have been compromised, we may seek to notify you of that development and, if so, will endeavor to do so as promptly as practicable under the circumstances.

Sharing and Disclosure of Information JD Supra Collects

Except as otherwise described in this privacy statement, JD Supra will not disclose personal information to any third party unless we believe that disclosure is necessary to: (1) comply with applicable laws; (2) respond to governmental inquiries or requests; (3) comply with valid legal process; (4) protect the rights, privacy, safety or property of JD Supra, users of the Service, Website visitors or the public; (5) permit us to pursue available remedies or limit the damages that we may sustain; and (6) enforce our Terms & Conditions of Use.

In the event there is a change in the corporate structure of JD Supra such as, but not limited to, merger, consolidation, sale, liquidation or transfer of substantial assets, JD Supra may, in its sole discretion, transfer, sell or assign information collected on and through the Service to one or more affiliated or unaffiliated third parties.

Links to Other Websites

This Website and the Service may contain links to other websites. The operator of such other websites may collect information about you, including through cookies or other technologies. If you are using the Service through the Website and link to another site, you will leave the Website and this Policy will not apply to your use of and activity on those other sites. We encourage you to read the legal notices posted on those sites, including their privacy policies. We shall have no responsibility or liability for your visitation to, and the data collection and use practices of, such other sites. This Policy applies solely to the information collected in connection with your use of this Website and does not apply to any practices conducted offline or in connection with any other websites.

Changes in Our Privacy Policy

We reserve the right to change this Policy at any time. Please refer to the date at the top of this page to determine when this Policy was last revised. Any changes to our privacy policy will become effective upon posting of the revised policy on the Website. By continuing to use the Service or Website following such changes, you will be deemed to have agreed to such changes. If you do not agree with the terms of this Policy, as it may be amended from time to time, in whole or part, please do not continue using the Service or the Website.

Contacting JD Supra

If you have any questions about this privacy statement, the practices of this site, your dealings with this Web site, or if you would like to change any of the information you have provided to us, please contact us at:

- hide
*With LinkedIn, you don't need to create a separate login to manage your free JD Supra account, and we can make suggestions based on your needs and interests. We will not post anything on LinkedIn in your name. Or, sign up using your email address.