Jump to main content or area navigation.

Contact Us

Water: Industry Effluent Guidelines

Basic Information



Industrial site with discharging pipes

Effluent guidelines are technology-based regulations to control industrial wastewater discharges. These regulations protect human health and enhance water quality. We issue effluent guidelines for new and existing industrial dischargers, both those discharging directly to surface waters and those discharging to publicly owned treatment works (POTWs). This regulatory program has been a critical element in cleaning the Nation's waters by substantially reducing industrial water pollution.


EPA Headquarters

The guidelines are technology-based: they are based on the performance of treatment and control technologies. EPA leads this regulatory program from its headquarters office in Washington, DC, while also coordinating with the EPA Regions and with stakeholders. Discharge permits issued under the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) incorporate limits on specific pollutants set in effluent guidelines, and facilities must meet those limits to comply with Clean Water Act requirements.

There are several additional key aspects to the regulatory program. First, EPA issues effluent guidelines for categories of dischargers; we often refer to the categories as industries or industry subcategories, where a group of dischargers have common characteristics, such as manufacturing process or types of pollutants discharged. Second, the stringency of an effluent guideline accounts not only for technology but also for cost and economic achievability. Finally, effluent guidelines work in tandem with a wider range of programs, including water quality standards, to protect and restore the Nation's waters.

Jump to main content.