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Water: Permitting (NPDES)



A strong agricultural industry is essential to the Nation's economic stability, the viability of many rural communities, and the sustainability of a healthful and high quality food supply for the American public. Agricultural producers are primary stewards of many of our Nation's natural resources, have played a key role in past efforts to improve water quality, and are important partners in implementing improved measures to protect the environment and public health.


Voluntary and regulatory programs serve complementary roles in providing agricultural producers with the assistance and certainty they need to achieve individual business and personal goals, and in ensuring protection of water quality and public health. The National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) program applies to some agricultural producers, particularly operators of larger or higher risk animal feeding operations. For most agricultural producers, however, a variety of voluntary programs provide the technical and financial assistance to help producers meet technical standards and remain economically viable.

Note that the NPDES regulations exclude irrigated agriculture and agricultural stormwater runoff from the universe of entities requiring permit coverage. Discharges from concentrated animal feeding operations, concentrated aquatic animal production facilities, and silviculture, as well as discharges to aquaculture projects are not excluded from permitting requirements.

Final Pesticide General Permit

On October 31, 2011, EPA issued a final NPDES Pesticide General Permit (PGP) for point source discharges from the application of pesticides to waters of the United States. To view information on the PGP, click here.

Final Rule on Water Transfers

EPA is publishing a final rule to exclude water transfers from regulation under the NPDES permitting program. The final rule defines a water transfer as an activity that conveys or connects waters of the United States without subjecting the transferred water to intervening industrial, municipal, or commercial use. This does not apply to pollutants introduced by the water transfer activity itself to the water being transferred.

Water transfers are activities that divert water between waterbodies, typically through the use of pumps or passive redirection through tunnels, channels, and/or natural stream water features. Water transfers are necessary to allocate water resources to meet the water needs of those downstream in the receiving waterbody. Such needs include public water supply, irrigation, power generation, flood control, and environmental restoration. The Bureau of Reclamation administers significant transfers in western States to provide approximately 140,000 farmers with irrigation water. With the use of water transfers, the Army Corps of Engineers keeps thousands of acres of agricultural and urban land in southern Florida from flooding in former areas of Everglades wetlands. Many large cities in the west and the east would not have adequate sources of water for their citizens were it not for the continuous redirection of water from outside basins. For example, both the cities of New York and Los Angeles are dependent on water transfers from distant watersheds to meet their municipal demand.


Click on the links below to find out more information and facts on AFOs, CAFOs, and the NPDES permitting program for CAFOs.

  • CAFO Final Rule - provides information about the Final CAFO Rule including the preamble and text and a general fact sheet on the CAFO Final Rule.
  • General Information - provides links to highlighted publications and important AFO/CAFO links.

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