Water Quality Division: Permits: Arizona Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (AZPDES): Other Programs Affecting AZPDES

Clean Water Act Section 208

A.A.C. R18_9-A903 prohibits the issuance of an Arizona Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (AZPDES) permit that is inconsistent with the state's areawide Water Quality Management (WQM) plan. The 208 planning process stresses regionalization of wastewater treatment and identifies strategies for dealing with water quality impairments within their area. The section 208 planning process is carried out by the five Councils of Governments (COGs) and several individual counties. ADEQ's section 208 Coordinator assists the applicants, COGs, and the public with the process. An application for a new or modified AZPDES permit will not be considered administratively complete until the project is considered consistent with or not consistent with the regional plan, thus applicants should consult with their planning agency early in the process.

Clean Water Act Section 303 (d) Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) List

States are required to identify waterbodies that are not meeting water quality based standards. Known as the 303(d) list, these Water Quality Limited Segments (WQLS) must be prioritized by the state based on the level of pollution and the designated uses of the water. For each identified pollutant, the state must determine a TMDL, which is the amount of that pollutant a waterbody can tolerate without exceeding the water quality standard. TMDLs should take into account all sources of a pollutant - point and nonpoint source - seasonal variations and a margin of safety.

Arizona currently has 102 waterbodies on the 303(d) list. States must complete TMDLs within a reasonable period of time or approximately 8 to 13 years from first listing. ADEQ currently has a schedule for completing all TMDLs for the current listing by 2010.

TMDLs and impaired waters must be considered in the National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permitting process. Where there is a discharge(s) proposed to an impaired waterbody, if pollutants in the discharge exceed the tolerable loading, discharges would have to be reduced or denied.

Watershed Planning

In recent years, the U.S. EPA and ADEQ have begun focusing on implementing the water quality programs on a watershed basis. The goal is to integrate ADEQ's regulatory, monitoring, permitting and planning efforts internally and externally with other government agencies and the needs of communities within the watershed.

To accomplish this, ADEQ has divided the state along the natural watershed boundaries and has begun focusing resources on a rotational basis through those watersheds. Working closely with the local communities, ADEQ will conduct a detailed assessment of the water quality in the watershed. Over the course of a watershed cycle, the partners will identify problems and concerns, prioritize them and develop a plan to address them. At the end of the cycle, another detailed assessment will determine the success of the effort, identify new issues and begin again.

An important aspect of the watershed management process is to schedule permitting activities at the appropriate time in the cycle. U.S. EPA and ADEQ are gaining insight into the best ways to refine the NPDES framework to make decisions based on a watershed analysis and to engage local leadership in planning and both point and nonpoint sources in pollution control. In 1996, U.S. EPA and ADEQ coordinated the renewal of the NPDES permits to coincide with the watershed schedule to begin the process. Adherence to the schedule will depend on a number of programmatic factors including TMDLs, local issues and U.S. EPA inputs.

Watershed - NPDES Permit Schedule by Watershed

(established in 1996)
Years Watershed (ID #)
1996/2001/2006 Bill Williams River (6)
Colorado River/Lower Gila River (Hoover Dam to International Boundary with Mexico) (7)
Middle Gila River (Lower Agua Fria River Basin) (8a)
Middle Gila River (Upper Agua Fria River Basin (8a)
1997/2002/2007 Middle Gila River (Granite Reef to Painted Rock Dam (8b)
1998/2003/2008 Middle Gila River (Coolidge Dam to Salt River (8c)
Salt River Basin
1999/2004/2009 San Carlos/Safford/Duncan (Upper Gila River Basin) (2)
Verde River Basin (1)
Little Colorado/San Juan Basins (10)
2000/2005/2010 Santa Cruz/Rio Magdalena/Rio Sonoita Basins (3)
San Pedro/Wilcox Playa (Rio Yaqui Basin (4)
Colorado River/Grand Canyon (Utah border to Lake Mead) (5)


Discharge - Any addition of any pollutant to navigable waters from any point source.

Indirect Discharge - The introduction of pollutants into a publicly owned treatment works from any nondomestic source that is regulated under section 307(b), (c) or (d) of the Clean Water Act.

Nonpoint Source - Any conveyance which is not a point source from which pollutants are or may be discharged to navigable waters.

Point Source - Any discernible, confined and discrete conveyance, including, but not limited to, any pipe, ditch, channel, tunnel, conduit, well, discrete fissure, container, rolling stock, concentrated animal feeding operation or vessel or other floating craft from which pollutants are or may be discharged to navigable waters. Point source does not include return flows from irrigated agriculture.

Pollutant - Dredged spoil, solid waste, incinerator residue, filter backwash, sewage, garbage, sewage sludge, munitions, chemical wastes, biological materials, radioactive materials (except those regulated under the Atomic Energy Act of 1954, as amended (42 U.S.C. 2014 et seq.)), heat, wrecked or discarded equipment, rock, sand, cellar dirt, and industrial, municipal, and agricultural waste discharged into water. It does not mean:

  1. Sewage From vessels; or
  2. Water, gas, or other material that is injected into a well to facilitate production of oil or gas, or water derived in association with oil and gas production and disposed of in a well, if the well used either to facilitate production or for disposal purposes is approved by authority of this state, and if the state determines that the injection or disposal will not result in the degradation of ground or surface water resources. (40 CFR 122.2)

Sewage sludge:

  1. Solid, semi-solid or liquid residue that is generated during the treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment works.
  2. Includes domestic septage, scum or solids that are removed in primary, secondary or advanced wastewater treatment processes, and any material derived from sewage sludge.
  3. Does not include ash that is generated during the firing of sewage sludge in a sewage sludge incinerator or grit and screenings that are generated during preliminary treatment of domestic sewage in a treatment works.

Waters of the United States:

  1. All waters that are currently used, were used in the past, or may be susceptible to use in interstate or foreign commerce, including all waters that are subject to the ebb and flow of the tide;
  2. All interstate waters, including interstate wetlands;
  3. All other waters such as intrastate lakes, rivers, streams (including intermittent streams), mudflats, sandflats, wetlands, sloughs, prairie potholes, wet meadows, playa lakes, or natural ponds the use, degradation, or destruction of which would affect or could affect interstate or foreign commerce including any waters:
    1. That are or could be used by interstate or foreign travelers for recreational or other purposes;
    2. From which fish or shellfish are or could be taken and sold in interstate or foreign commerce; or
    3. That are used or could be used for industrial purposes by industries in interstate commerce;
  4. All impoundments of waters defined as waters of the United States under this definition;
  5. Tributaries of waters identified in subsections (a) through (d);
  6. The territorial sea; and
  7. Wetlands adjacent to waters (other than waters that are themselves wetlands) identified in subsections (a) through (f).