WRD records contain water rights dating back to the early 1960’s authorizing the land application of treated municipal and industrial wastewater. Beginning in the mid-1970’s, municipalities were faced with increased pressure to either stop discharging treated wastewater into streams or to treat the wastewater to a much higher quality that could be discharged.
In 1991, an easier “Registration” process was established allowing the exempt reuse of treated municipal wastewater without obtaining a formal water use permit from WRD. Since 1991, water reuse has increased and over 100 Municipal Reclaimed Water Registrations have been filed with WRD.
Municipal Water Reuse
Treated municipal wastewater or “reclaimed water” may be reused for irrigation or other beneficial uses as an exempt use without a water use permit issued by Oregon Water Resources Department (WRD), under certain conditions. The reclaimed water must first be treated and discharged under either a national pollutant discharge elimination system (NPDES) or water pollution control facilities (WPCF) permit issued by the Oregon Department of Environmental Quality (DEQ). The reclaimed water may be retained in a pond or lagoon without a reservoir permit prior to reuse. But depending on the size of the retention structure, WRD approval of the engineering plans may be required. In addition, the person intending to use the reclaimed water as an exempt use must first complete and file a Municipal Reclaimed Water Registration form with WRD.
If the municipality has discharged the reclaimed water into a stream for five or more years, and the discharge represented more than 50 percent of the total average annual flow of the stream, WRD must notify water right holders who may be affected by the reduced discharge. If a water right is affected, the water right holder may have a preference to use the reclaimed water.
Industrial and Confined Animal Feeding Operation Water Reuse
Groundwater that is first legally used under a water use permit or water right certificate for either industrial purposes or confined animal feeding (CAFO) purposes may be reused for irrigation, as an exempt use, without an additional water use permit. The industrial or CAFO wastewater may be reused only if the facility is authorized by a DEQ water quality permit to operate an industrial disposal system or an Oregon Department of Agriculture permit to operate a CAFO. Additionally, the wastewater may only be reused for irrigation during a period when it has never been discharged into a stream. To qualify for the exemption from obtaining a formal WRD water use permit, WRD must receive a copy of the DEQ/ODA water quality permit.