RAPID/Geothermal/Colorado/Water Quality

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Colorado Geothermal Water Quality Assessment(14-CO)

Geothermal developers may be required to obtain several permits related to water quality issues, including permits for nonpoint source pollution, NPDES permitting, underground injection control, 401 water quality certification, and groundwater discharge.

The Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment (CDPHE) administers a voluntary regulatory Nonpoint Source Pollution Management Program to control the impacts of nonpoint source pollution. The MDEQ program consists of public awareness, cooperation with other agencies and land owners, and the application of Best Management Practices (BMPs). Developers may choose to comply with the program.

Developers must comply with National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements if their project will discharge pollutants into the waters of the United States. Colorado has been granted authority by the Environmental Protection Agency to administer the NPDES program within the state. The CDPHE Water Quality Control Division (WQCD) issues NPDES permits in accordance with the Colorado Water Quality Control Act and implementing regulations: 5 CCR 1002-61 and 5 CCR 1002-61. Generally, industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain NPDES permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters.

The EPA has not delegated authority to Colorado to regulate Class V underground injection control wells. Developers seeking underground injection control wells for geothermal activities must receive authority from the EPA.

Developers must obtain a 401 Water Quality Certification from the CDPHE WQCD if their project implicates any federal license or permit issued to construct or operate a facility which may result in any fill or discharge into navigable waters of the United States. The CDPHE WQCD has developed administrative rules for water quality certification under 5 CCR 1002-82 401 Certification Regulation.

If the project will impact groundwater, the developer must obtain a groundwater discharge permit unless the discharge is excluded by 5 CCR 1002-61.14(1). The CDPHE WQCD protects groundwater quality through issuing groundwater discharge permits under the Colorado Water Quality Control Act and 5 CCR 1002-61 for activities that impact groundwater quality such as surface disposal, septic systems, unlined ponds, overland flow, reuse and irrigation.

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Determine Which State and Federal Permits Apply

Use this overview flowchart and following steps to learn which federal and state permits apply to your projects.