Water Quality Regulations

Headgate on an irrigation canal

Under the authority of the Clean Water Act, the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) implemented a federal rule in 2008 for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs). This rule outlines how Animal Feeding Operations (AFOs) and CAFOs are regulated by EPA and authorized states across the country.

The new rule requires a National Pollution Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit for CAFOs (also called a CAFO permit) that discharge manure or nutrients into water sources. AFOs and large CAFOs that do not discharge, are not required by law to obtain a permit.

In Utah, two permitting options are available: a CAFO permit or Utah's AFO Permit-by-Rule.

Key Points for the Permits:

  • No manure, feed, or nutrients can be discharged into water sources
  • A Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) is needed for any permit
  • No exemption for large storm events
  • Routine inspections will be conducted by the Division of Water Quality (DWQ)

In addition to the Utah Pollution Discharge Elimination System (UPDES) (surface water) requirements, AFOs and CAFOs are subject to Ground Water Quality regulations. Depending on the total number of animal units at an animal feeding operation (see table below), the design for a liquid manure handling system must receive approval prior to construction from either the Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) or the Division of Water Quality Ground Water Protection Section.

Key Water Quality Regulations Affecting Everyone

  • No discharges are allowed
  • No exemption based on storm event size, UNLESS a permit is obtained
  • If a permit is obtained, the Nutrient Management Plan (NMP) must be followed to have enforcement protection
  • for discharges occurring during 25 year, 24 hour storm events or greater
  • AFO size determined by number of animals within each category

Number of Animals for Groundwater Permits

Animal Type Beef Cattle Swine Dairy Cattle Sheep Turkeys Ducks Hens or Broilers Horses
Equivalent to 1,500
Animal Units
1,500 3,750 over 55 pounds each 1,050 15,000 82,500 7,500 45,000 750

Other Regulations