Guide How an NPDES Stormwater General Permit Works

A stormwater general permit is both a permit and a handbook for compliance. Each general permit has a fact sheet that summarizes the issues considered in drafting the permit. The fact sheet often helps the reader better understand the intent of the permit's provisions.

The NPDES Stormwater Permit Process

The process begins when EPA writes the general permit and publishes it in the Federal Register. Each general permit is written to cover a category of discharges under the Clean Water Act.

The owners/operators of discharges fitting the definition of that category must:

  • Read the permit
  • prepare a plan or design a program to achieve compliance with the general permit. The general permit contains the scope and outline for the required plan/program.
  • Complete and submit a Notice of Intent (NOI) requesting coverage under the general permit. A copy of the NOI form is included in the general permit. Coverage starts when the NOI is submitted, or as specified in the general permit. It is important to note that signing and submitting the NOI form requires the permittee to comply with the terms of the general permit.
  • Carry out the plan and periodically assess performance. The plan should be modified as necessary to ensure meeting the program/plan's goals and the general permit requirements. Changes must be documented in the plan.
  • Report as set forth in the general permit.
  • Keep records, make information available, and interact with other entities and the public as set forth in the general permit.
  • Comply with all provisions of the permit until the permit expires or submission of a Notice of Termination (NOT).

A general permit is both a permit and a handbook for compliance. Each general permit has a preamble (or fact sheet) that summarizes the factual, legal, methodological, and policy questions considered in drafting the permit. The information in the fact sheet often helps the reader better understand the intent of the provisions in the permit. The permit itself:

  • defines eligibility for coverage;
  • tells precisely how to obtain coverage;
  • gives directions for preparation and implementation of the required plan/program;
  • describes what records to keep and how, what, and when to report;
  • has a section of standard conditions found in all NPDES permits;
  • tells how to terminate permit coverage;
  • has a section of definitions;
  • has a section of conditions specific to particular jurisdictions (e.g. states, Indian lands); and
  • includes forms, information about endangered species and historic properties.

The plan written by the permittee to comply with the permit should contain activities that are effective in improving and protecting storm water quality. In order to adequately allow for variation within the regulated category of discharges the general permit necessarily has broadly written requirements. It is the permittee's responsibility to interpret and implement the general permit requirements by making any decisions needed to create a plan tailored appropriately to the specifics of the activities and of the site.

Each general permit runs on its own schedule. Each general permit has a five-year term that starts on the date of publication in the Federal Register. A permit may designate a particular time during the permit term, e.g., "year 1," for particular activities. It is possible to obtain permit coverage midway through a general permit's term but permit scheduled requirements do NOT get rescheduled based on starting date of coverage. They remain as scheduled in the permit, e.g., year 2 is from the first anniversary of publication to the second anniversary of publication.

Stormwater general permits can be obtained from the US EPA website (see link below), 

OR contact:

Thelma Murphy
Stormwater Coordinator
EPA Region 1
5 Post Office Square - Suite 100
Boston, MA 02109-3912
Phone: 617-918-1615

Key Actions for The NPDES Stormwater Permit Process


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