California Stormwater Permit Tips


The material and information provided is for information purposes to assist dischargers in preparing a site map and stormwater pollution prevention plan (SWPPP).  The use of this information and/or Mapistry’s software does not guarantee compliance with the California Industrial General Permit (IGP). Dischargers should review the IGP to determine permit requirements for their site. In addition, regulatory interpretations may change over time as a result of new information, new court cases, or new laws.  Dischargers should consult with their regulators, such as the California Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) or California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) for current interpretations of environmental laws. In addition, dischargers should use their best professional judgement and utilize legal counsel and/or environmental consultant for questions about their site and applicable environmental regulations. Users assume all liability directly or indirectly arising from the use of this information.


Who does the industrial stormwater permit apply to now?

On July 1, 2015, an estimated 100,000 industrial facilities in California will need to be in compliance with a brand new stormwater permit. Covered facilities fall under one of the categories in Attachment A of the new California industrial stormwater permit and applicability is usually based on Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code. For more specifics on SIC codes, use the 1987 SIC code manual.

The nine categories that companies fall into in terms of applicability are:

  • Facilities with subchapter N effluent standards (refineries/fertilizer manufacturing)
  • Manufacturing facilities
  • Oil & gas/mining facilities
  • Hazardous waste treatment sites
  • Landfills
  • Recycling facilities
  • Electric power plants
  • Transportation companies
  • Sewage treatment plants


Notice of Intent

What do I need to do if I was covered under the old permit?

Even if your facility was covered under the old industrial stormwater permit, you will need to file again for coverage and upload an updated stormwater pollution prevention plan and site map online on the Water Board’s Stormwater Multiple Application and Report Tracking system (SMARTS). If you were previously exempt from the old permit, which often included “light industry”, you will still need to file online. In some cases you may qualify for an exemption via a No Exposure Certification (NEC), which has to be filed by October 1, 2015. However, if these documents are not filed the Water Board can issue fines of up to $37,500 per day. In addition, non-filers open themselves up to potential litigation by third-party organizations under the Clean Water Act.

Filing for permit coverage: August 14, 2015 (extended from July 1st)

Filing a No Exposure Certification (NEC): October 1, 2015



No Exposure Certification (NEC)

Can I get an exemption?

Even though a facility may fall under one of the categories in Attachment A of the new California industrial stormwater permit, they may qualify for an exemption from some of the requirements. A facility qualifies for a no exposure certification, only if industrial materials and activities are not exposed to rainfall. If a facility qualifies, then they do not have to implement Best Management Practices (BMPs) for their site and they do not have to prepare and follow a Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan (SWPPP). This likely will mean facilities can avoid significant costs related to SWPPP development, sampling, and inspections. The California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) has a very specific definition of no exposure and criteria necessary to qualify for the no exposure certification.

Get NEC Criteria


  • A site map still must be submitted via SMARTS
  • The legally responsible person (LRP) must certify that 11 materials/activities are not exposed to precipitation
  • NEC must be completed by October 1st
  • Need to file for conditional exclusion each year
Need help determining if you qualify for a NEC? Get help from a stormwater expert.
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Non-Compliance Issues

What happens if I do not update my California SWPPP or file for a permit? What happens if I receive a Notice of Violation (NOV) or a lawsuit?

If the permit required registration documents, such as the Notice of Intent (NOI) and site map, are not filed the Water Board can issue fines of up to $37,500 per day. In addition, non-filers open themselves up to potential litigation by third-party organizations under the Clean Water Act. 

In the past couple of years, many facilities have settled with the Water Board and third party organizations for thousand or even millions of dollars in penalties and legal fees. For example, it is costing one facility at least $7.5 million after they settled with the Water Board. In addition, third-party lawsuits cost these 26 facilities millions of dollars, and these 3,000 facilities are currently facing litigation.

Unfortunately, updating your SWPPP and site maps once at the beginning of the reporting year is not sufficient to stay in compliance. If you make significant changes to your SWPPP, you need to re-submit your SWPPP within 30 days to the Water Board. In addition, your sampling results from each of your four required sampling events need to be submitted within 30 days. The key to minimizing your costs and time is developing an organized approach to your permit requirements. Having a centralized system to track all of the inspection forms, sampling results, site maps, and SWPPPs is the best solution to permit compliance for a facility.

The deadline to submit for coverage and upload your SWPPP and site map per the new industrial stormwater permit was July 1st August 14, 2015 (extended).


For more on enforcement actions, the Qualified Industrial Stormwater Practitioner (QISP) training includes this guidance document on Notices of Violation (NOV) and potenital permit citations. For information on citizen lawsuits and Notices of Intent to Sue, you can read about it on our blog (attorney's perspective) and also read about Notices of Violations (NOVs) from the Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) perspective.

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Site Map Requirements

What do I need to put on my map?

The new California Industrial Stormwater General Permit (IGP) requires a site map for each permittee regulated under it. All facilities, from those submitting a No Exposture Certification (NEC) to those submitting a Notice of Intent (NOI) need to prepare and submit a site map.  

California SWPPP site map 2

Get More Info




Discharger Guide

The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) guide was developed to assist Dischargers in submitting their NOIs, NECs, NOTs, and Annual Reports, as well as, viewing/printing Receipt Letters, monitoring the status of submitted documents, and viewing their application/renewal fee statements through SMARTS. The guide contains general guidance, detailed information on how to access SMARTS, how to complete the required applications, a list of acronyms, frequently asked questions, and a glossary. The SWRCB guide for dischargers is available here. In addition, Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ) regarding the IGP and SMARTS have been compiled by the SWRCB into this reference document.


If you are aware of the general requirements of the IGP and want to jump onto SMARTS quickly, use this quick start guide from the SWRCB.


Sampling Data (Ad hoc reports)

The California IGP requires that sample results be submitted in SMARTS within 30 days of receipt of the final laboratory report. For more on how to submit the results, check out Mapistry's blog post on submitting sample results (includes step-by-step instructions and the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) guide on sampling data submittal in SMARTS. Tired of entering the data, check out our monitoring program, because we do it for you.


Annual Reports

Annual reports are due in SMARTS by July 15th of the reporting year. For example, the 2016-2017 reporting year in California ends on June 30, 2017. Therefore, the annual report is due to be submitted and certified by July 15, 2017 in SMARTS. For more on the 2016 annual report, including recent changes you can check out Mapistry's blog post on annual reports. The SWRCB also has a guide to submitting annual reports available.


Notice of Termination (NOT)

Dischargers with Notice of Intent (NOI) or No Exposure Certification (NEC) coverage request termination of coverage under the Industrial General Permit (IGP) when either; (a) the operation of the facility has been transferred to another entity, (b) the facility has ceased operations, completed closure activities, and removed all industrial related pollutants, or (c) the facility’s operations have changed and are no longer subject to the Industrial General Permit. The IGP requires dischargers to electronically certify and submit a Notice of Termination (NOT) via SMARTS. The SWRCB guide on filing a NOT is available here.


Change of Information (COI)

The Change of Information form (COI) in SMARTS is used to update information such as facility name, address, Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code, and/or Storm Water Pollution Prevention Plans (SWPPP) revisions. The SWRCB guide on filing a COI is available here. If you are in Level 1 or updated your SWPPP, you will need to file a COI with a SWPPP update, which we explain how-to-do-it here.



Qualified Industrial Stormwater Practitioner 

How do I become a QISP?

You will need to complete the following steps:

  1. Take the 16-hour online training course through the Sacramento State Office of Water Programs (sign up here)
  2. Pass the online mid-term (score 70% or better)
  3. Take the in-person one-day class with a ToR-QISP (sign up for our class)
  4. Pass the final exam (score 70% or better)

More Info on QISP: Water Board factsheet

Need a QISP?

Are you going into Level 1 or 2? Are you filing a permit for the first time and need a 303(d) evaluation? You are in the right place, because Mapistry's QISPs can help.

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Annual Report

What do I need to submit for my annual report?

Annual reports are due in SMARTS by July 15th of the reporting year. For example, the 2015-2016 reporting year in California ends on June 30, 2016. Therefore, the annual report is due to be submitted and certified by July 15, 2016 in SMARTS. For more on the 2016 annual report, including recent changes you can check out Mapistry's blog post on annual reports. The SWRCB also has a guide to submitting annual reports available.


For more on annual reports, view our webinar with the SWRCB on annual reports.

View Recording & Download Presentation  (June 29th)



Exceedance Response Actions

What happens if I exceed Numeric Action Levels (NALs)?

If a facility exceeds the Numeric Action Levels (NALs) for their industrial stormwater parameters, the facility's status will change from "baseline" to Exceedance Response Action (ERA) level 1 status on July 1, 2016. Per the IGP, a facility will need to complete an evaluation with a QISP (Qualified Industrial Stormwater Practitioner) on the related pollutant sources and identify Best Management Practices (BMPs) needed to reduce the discharge levels. An ERA Level 1 report will also need to be prepared by a QISP. The final QISP required step for ERA Level 1 sites, is conduct training for the facility's staff.

Here is the specific language from the IGP on ERA Level 1 Reports and QISPs and training requirements.


  • Enter ERA Level 1 status (no action needed) - 7/1/16
  • Annual Report due (2015-2016 reporting year) - 7/15/16
  • Complete evaluation with QISP - 10/1/16
  • Submit ERA Level 1 Report and update SWPPP - 1/1/17

Impaired Water Bodies

303(d) Listed Water Bodies

New dischargers applying for NOI coverage under the General Permit that will be discharging to an impaired water body with a 303(d) listed impairment are ineligible for coverage unless the Discharger submits data and/or information, prepared by a QISP, demonstrating that the facility will not cause or contribute to the impairment.

The Industrial General Permit (IGP) requires an existing discharger to monitor additional parameters if the discharge(s) from its facility contributes pollutants to receiving waters that are listed as impaired for those pollutants (CWA section 303(d) listings). The IGP lists the receiving waters that are 303(d) listed as impaired for pollutants that are likely to be associated with industrial stormwater in Appendix 3.

For example, if a discharger discharges to a water body that is listed as impaired for copper, and the discharge(s) from its facility has the potential sources of copper, the Discharger must add copper to the list of parameters to monitor in its stormwater discharge.

To find the impaired water body that your site is located in, go to the ArcGIS website that the California State Water Resources Control Board setup.

[Source: CA IGP Factsheet Section I.D.7] 


Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL)

As part of the update to the IGP in 2014 (from the 1997 IGP), the State Water Resources Control Board tabled the discussion around Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) until a later date. Now in 2016, TMDLs are being developed by the Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCBs) and the SWRCB is preparing to incorporate them into the IGP. Per the IGP (page 6), the SWRCB stated "Due to the number and variety of Dischargers subject to a wide range of TMDLs, development of TMDL-specific permit requirements for each TMDL listed in Attachment E will severly delay the reissuance of this General Permit."

Before we go too far down the road of TMDLs, let's step back and explain what they are and why they could potentially impact industrial facilities in California. A TMDL is "a written plan that describes how an impaired water body will meet water quality standards" (SWRCB Fact Sheet). The Clean Water Act (CWA) of 1972, which is a federal law, requires California to develop TMDLs for impaired water bodies in Section 303(d). Therefore, impaired water bodies are often on a "303(d) list."

The IGP is a general permit applied to specific industrial facilitis by Standard Industrial Classification (SIC) code (Attachment A of the IGP). It does not apply to all facilities in a watershed. However, a TMDL applies to all pollutant loads in a watershed, both non-point and point sources (e.g. industrial facilities). Pollutant loads for each pollutant that the water body is impaired for are determined and assigned to each of the sources (Waste Load Allocation [WLA]).

The timeline for developing and applying the TMDLs for the industrial stormwater permit is as follows:

  • SWRCB and RWQCB staff develop TMDL-specific monitoring and reporting requirements
  • RWQCB conducts a 30-day public comment period (currently occurring for some TMDLs)
  • RWQCB submit draft TMDLs and comment to the SWRCB (planned adoption July 1, 2016)
  • SWRCB issues a public notice and has a public comment period
  • SWRCB reopens IGP and approves TMDL-specific permit requirements
  • Facilities must comply with TMDL requirements, if applicable

There have been a number of proposed TMDLs by RWQCBs which are in various stages of the 30-day public comment period (closed, open, or will open). For a complete list of TMDLs and their comment period status, you can check out the SWRCB website. With the range of monitoring and reporting requirements being proposed, the impact on an individual facility varies greatly on your watershed and potential pollutants.


For more on TMDLs, check out our webinar with the SWRCB on them.

View Recording & Download Presentation



Industrial Stormwater Sampling

How do I collect samples? 

With the new California Industrial Stormwater General Permit (IGP), all facilities need to collect samples for pH (in the field) and send samples to the laboratory for Oil & Grease (O&G) and Total Suspended Solids (TSS). For more on pH measurement, including pH meter calibration, check out our how-to guide.

If you are collecting samples from sheet flow across a site, it can be quite tricky. Here is a good video on sampling stormwater sheet flow from Minnesota on how to create a dam and collect a stormwater sample. However, please note that if you are sampling for O&G you should not use a plastic container to collect the sample (in the video they use a plastic bag). Instead you should collect your industrial stormwater sample in the glass (amber) container supplied by the laboratory. The creation of a temporary dam should make it a lot easier.



In California, the IGP has an attachment (H) that covers sampling procedures. It is derived from the US EPA's industrial stormwater monitoring guide. You can reference the guide here.

For other resources on industrial stormwater sampling, see the list below:


How are samples analyzed?

For a behind the scenes look at how analytical laboratories handle your stormwater samples, check out one laboratory's explanation of Total Suspended Solids (TSS) and Oil & Grease analysis plus a great video overview of stormwater sample analysis.


When do I collect samples?

Facilities need to collect and analyze stormwater samples from two (2) Qualified Storm Events (QSEs) within the first half of each reporting year (July 1 to December 31), and two (2) QSEs within the second half of each reporting year (January 1 to June 30). 

Sample collection is required during scheduled facility operating hours and when sampling conditions are safe in accordance with Section XI.C.6.a.ii of the General Permit. Samples from each discharge location shall be collected within four (4) hours of:

  1. The start of the discharge; or,
  2. The start of facility operations if the QSE occurs within the previous 12-hour period (e.g., for storms with discharges that begin during the night for facilities with day-time operating hours).

For more, check out some common errors around QSEs and how to better decode the definition of a QSE.



Best Management Practices (BMPs)

What should I use to reduce pollutants in stormwater?

There are two main classes of Best Management Practices (BMPs), structural (e.g. stormwater ponds and filter cartridges) and non-structural (e.g. sweeping and good housekeeping), that can be used on industrial facilities to manage stormwater. For a detailed look at the different types of BMPs, including filtration devices and design considerations, check out our webinar on BMPs. 

View Recording & Download Presentation

For info on specific pollutants, including sources and BMPs, check out the resources below:

For info on roof downspout filters for both TSS and zinc, we put together a quick reference guide with some suggested BMP vendors. 


Water Board Contacts

To find your Regional Water Quality Control Board (RWQCB) contact, who would likely be inspecting and enforcing your stormwater permit, there is a directory of the stormwater programs here. You can figure out what RWQCB you are in based on the first digits of the WDID of your site. 



If your WDID is 3 44I006295 that means you are in Region 3 (San Luis Obispo). Based on the directory from the State Water Resources Control Board, the contact for industrial stormwater is David Innis and his number is (805) 549-3150. His email can be found by clicking on his name and is