Winery Wastewater Guidelines Impact Half of All California Operations

Brian German Agri-Business, Regulation

A new set of winery wastewater guidelines will be imposed on a statewide basis. The State Water Resources Control Board recently adopted a general order regulating how wastewater will be processed and discharged. Traditionally there have been regional guidelines, but the new order will be the first statewide mandate applied to wastewater from wineries.

Winery Wastewater

“What the state water board adopted last week will apply to a wide array of California wineries and require them to get a permit from their regional water quality control boards to continue their operations,” said Noelle Cremers, Director of Environmental and Regulatory Affairs for the Wine Institute. “It’s our estimation that about 1,500 wineries will be subject to the order.”

There is a total of approximately 3,000 wineries throughout California. The regional guidelines that dictated winery wastewater rules allowed for a more local approach to the state’s different geographies.  While the wine industry is concerned with water quality issues, there is some concern that a statewide mandate may not be the best approach to the issue. “The permit has these blanket requirements based on size rather than looking at the actual risk,” Cremers explained.

The permitting process for the new winery wastewater rule will be tiered based on winery size. Cremers noted the smallest wineries releasing under 30,000 gallons of process water annually should have a relatively simple permitting process. Operations over that threshold may have a more difficult experience with significant analysis and documentation required. “There’s also requirements for standards that they’ll have to meet. So, some folks will have to upgrade their facilities as well,” said Cremers.

The winery wastewater order contains a significant amount of detail that wineries will need to understand. The Wine Institute will be working to compile compliance documents to help wineries navigate the new requirements. “Unfortunately, the final documents have not been released yet by the water board. Once those are released then I will put that out,” Cremers noted.

Listen to the interview below.

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Brian German

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Ag News Director, AgNet West