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Water: Basics

Backlog Reduction


The Clean Water Act specifies that NPDES permits may not be issued for longer than five year terms. Permittees that wish to continue discharging beyond the five-year term must submit a complete application for permit renewal at least 180 days prior to the expiration date of their permit. If the permitting authority receives a complete application, but does not reissue the permit prior to the expiration date, the existing permit is generally "administratively continued." Permits that have been administratively continued beyond their expiration date are considered to be "backlogged." Where information is available, facilities awaiting their first NPDES permits are also considered part of the NPDES permit backlog.

Percent Current Goals

Since 1999, EPA has tracked the issuance status (i.e., the number and percent current) and set goals for states and EPA Regions to achieve a percent current rate of 90 percent. Initially, EPA set a goal for major facilities covered by an individual permit to achieve the 90 percent goal by the end of calendar year 2001. The date for achieving the 90 percent current goal for minor individual permittees and minor facilities covered by non-stormwater general permits was the end of calendar year 2004.

The percent current goal today is measured as the number of facilities (major and minor) covered by individual and non-stormwater general permits.

The three reports below provide a snapshot, based on national EPA databases, of the status of individual permits (major and minor). Note that these are national snapshots and that the status of facilities and the universe of permits change. For example: facilities are going out of business; new ones are coming on line; and national data systems cannot provide precise estimates of status. However, the reports below are reasonably accurate for the purposes of determining how well a state or EPA Region is performing with regards to the backlog.

EPA is continuing efforts to help permitting authorities improve their backlog. The Priority Permit initiative under the Permitting for Environmental Results (PER) strategy is aimed at reducing the backlog of high priority permit with the potential for environmental and programmatic impacts.

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