California Thermal Discharges regulations & environmental compliance analysis

California Thermal Discharges: What you need to know

Governing Law and Regulations

Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 316: 33 USC 1313 and 33 USC 1326

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Porter-Cologne Water Quality Act of 1970, California Water Code (CWC) 13000 to 14958

Regional water boards: CWC 13000 to 14958

Regulatory Agencies

U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Region 9

California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA) California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB)

California Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCBs)

See ADDRESSES & CONTACTS for addresses and telephone numbers.

See national section for basic information and federal regulations.

Comparison: State vs. Federal

Rules. Thermal discharge requirements in California follow the federal Clean Water Act and are regulated under the water quality control plans of the nine RWQCBs. Each of the regional offices operates in a semi-autonomous capacity, implementing the guidance policy of SWRCB for thermal discharges, as well as for other discharges into state waters.

Because there are no applicable nationwide standards implementing Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 316(b) for existing power plants, RWQCBs must implement CWA Section 316(b) on a case-by-case basis, using professional judgment.

Administration and enforcement. Through the RWQCBs, Cal/EPA's SWRCB is responsible for the administration and enforcement of the state's thermal discharge regulations.

State Requirements


CWC 13000 to 14958

The nine regional water boards develop and implement the basin plans, including setting discharge limits relating to thermal conditions. The basic plans for each of the nine regional water board regions specify the degree to which water temperature may be elevated or decreased for a particular receiving water. See ...

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