Plans and Policies


The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) has made it a priority to conduct a review of Resolution 68-16, the "Statement of Policy with Respect to Maintaining High Quality of Waters in California" (Antidegradation Policy) and is considering revising the policy, adopting an additional policy, and/or issuing guidance regarding implementation of the policy. The purpose of this project is to improve the usefulness of the Antidegradation Policy as a tool for making informed decisions regarding discharges that affect groundwater.


The Antidegradation Policy applies to the disposal of waste to high-quality surface water and groundwater. This policy requires that the quality of existing high-quality water be maintained unless the State finds that any change will be consistent with maximum benefit to the people of the State, will not unreasonably affect present and anticipated beneficial use of such water, and will not result in water quality less than that prescribed in policies as of the date on which such policies became effective. The Antidegradation Policy also requires best practicable treatment or control (BPTC) of discharges to high-quality waters to assure that pollution or nuisance will not occur, and that the highest water quality consistent with maximum benefit to the people of the state will be maintained.


State Water Board staff is not actively working on a statewide policy for the implementation of the Antidegradation Policy for discharges to groundwater. The second draft order in the matter of Eastern San Joaquin Agricultural Waste Discharge Requirements General Order (OCC File No. A-2239(a)-(c)) (October 10, 2017) addresses some of the larger issues the stakeholders identified during staff’s outreach efforts. These issues include the application of the Antidegradation Policy to nonpoint source discharges, how to determine baseline water quality and how the policy applies to general orders regulating discharges from irrigated agriculture. Order WQ 2015-0075 (Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System (MS4) Discharges Within the Coastal Watersheds of Los Angeles County) also provides useful guidance for implementing the Antidegradation Policy in an order covering a large area or a large number of dischargers. Staff and executive management will consider what additional guidance or regulatory action is necessary after the State Water Board issues a final order in the Eastern San Joaquin matter.


Timeline Initial Focused Stakeholder Meetings October-November 2013 Executive & Board Member Briefings January-February 2014 Work Team Meetings April-November 2014 Staff Discussion Papers April-December 2014 Draft Scoping Document April 2015 Follow-up Focused Stakeholder Meetings May 2015 Revised Scoping Document June 2015 Public CEQA Scoping Meetings August 2015 Executive & Board Member Briefings May 2015

Initial Focused Stakeholder Meetings - October-November 2013

As the first step in this project, the State Water Board prepared an issue paper and obtained early stakeholder input on the project scope during six focused stakeholder meetings with groups representing dairy and agriculture, environmental interests, publicly-owned treatment works, water districts, food processors and wineries, and site cleanup. The specific issues discussed were:

  1. Determination of baseline for analysis
  2. How to incorporate complex flow patterns and slow mixing rates in groundwater into analyses
  3. Lower level analysis or exemption for small, low threat discharges
  4. Type of analysis for water recycling and reuse projects
  5. Conducting analysis for a general order
  6. How to deal with groundwater degradation associated with permitted intensive land uses like agriculture and urbanization
  7. How to evaluate "maximum benefit to the people of the state"
  8. How to evaluate "best practicable treatment or control"
  9. How to monitor compliance

The main comments received from the focused stakeholder groups are organized by both group and issue.

Executive and Board Member Briefings - January-February 2014 and May 2015

The executive management and members of the State Water Board were briefed on the comments received from the stakeholders and gave input on the path forward for the project.

Work Team Meetings - April-November 2014

The State Water Board began work with a hypothesis that preparation of an Implementation Plan Appendix to the existing Antidegradation Policy would adequately address application of the Antidegradation Policy to groundwater. The work team, composed of members from the State Water Board and North Coast, Central Coast, Los Angeles, Central Valley, Lahontan, and Santa Ana Regional Water Boards, held several meetings to consider stakeholder comments and work on the framework for the Implementation Plan.

Staff INternal Discussion Papers - April-December 2014

Small subgroups of the work team completed broad discussion papers regarding pre-existing contamination, basin-wide management tools, permitting, and contributions by dischargers to improve groundwater quality. Additional discussion papers were prepared regarding baseline, assimilative capacity, de minimis discharges, permitting including agriculture and irrigated lands, maximum benefit, best practicable treatment or control, and point of compliance/monitoring. These papers were prepared for internal review and discussion of the issues raised by the work team and stakeholders.

Draft Scoping Document - June 2015

Information from the staff discussion papers, focused stakeholder group comments, and internal feedback was used to develop a draft project scoping document for review and comment by the focused stakeholder groups.

Follow-up Focused Stakeholder Meetings - June and July 2015

The initial focused stakeholder groups were invited to reconvene and provide comments on the draft project scoping document. The comments are organized by group and issue.


Diane Barclay
Phone: (916) 341-5585