On July 3, 2020, the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) released proposed General Waste Discharge Requirements for Winery Process Water Treatment Systems (proposed General Order) along with the draft California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Initial Study and Mitigated Declaration for public comment.  The proposed General Order will apply statewide, and includes requirements to ensure winery operations will not adversely impact water quality. The State Water Board also noticed a July 22, 2020 public workshop and future proposed adoption of the proposed General Order.  The July 22, 2020 public workshop will begin at 9:30 a.m. via remote attendance only.  Although a quorum of the State Water Board will be present at the public workshop, no final action will be taken at the workshop.

According to the Fact Sheet, the proposed General Order will streamline statewide permitting of winery process water discharges to land and is aimed at achieving statewide consistency.  The proposed General Order provides wineries flexibility in selecting compliance methods and tiers compliance requirements to a winery’s size and process water threat to water quality.  Specifically, dischargers are classified into tiers based on the total volume of process water discharged annually from the winery prior to treatment.  Application requirements, fees, and monitoring and reporting requirements are commensurate with the discharge regulated under each tier.

The Fact Sheet contains interesting data regarding the number of wineries that are currently permitted by the State and Regional Water Boards as well as those that will be subject to the proposed General Order:

The Wine Institute estimates 2,070 of the 3,612 bonded wineries in California will be subject to the order. There are only about 540 wineries or 15 percent currently permitted by the Water Boards. Staff estimates that many of the unpermitted wineries will have an upfront cost to update treatment systems and commence monitoring to comply with this order. The order creates a statewide fee policy which may change fees currently paid by wineries and may result in some wineries paying a statewide fee and a local agency oversight fee.

In addition to the July 22, 2020 public workshop, the public comment period ends on August 5, 2020 and the State Water Board adoption meeting is scheduled for November 17, 2020.

For more information about the proposed General Order, please visit https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/water_issues/programs/waste_discharge_requirements/winery_order.html#yr2020.

If you have questions regarding water resources or the potential effect of State Water Board actions on your facility, or other environmental, compliance, reporting, or permitting requirements, please contact our California water quality attorneys.