In California, the State Water Resources Control Board (Water Board) was created to ensure the highest reasonable quality for the state's water, while allocating the water to achieve the optimum balance of beneficial uses. The joint authority of water allocation and water quality protection enables the Water Board to provide comprehensive protection for California's water. There are nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards (Regional Boards). The mission of the Regional Boards is to develop and enforce water quality objectives and implementation plans that will best protect the beneficial uses of the state's water, recognizing local differences in climate, topography, geology, and hydrology. The Department of Resources Recycling and Recovery's (CalRecycle) role is to increase the diversion of organic materials through composting while still protecting California's water.

The Water Code requires that anyone who discharges waste that could affect the state's water must submit a Report of Waste Discharge. Current practice for larger composting facilities is the issuance of individual Waste Discharge Requirements (WDR) by the Regional Boards. A conditional waiver for “green waste-only” composting facilities was in effect from 1994 until 2003, when a change in law required all waivers either to be renewed or replaced with new WDRs. Currently, the Water Board and Regional Boards are considering development of a statewide waiver with substantive conditions that would address water quality protection for current and future composting facilities.

The Water Board and Regional Boards do not have the ability to waive requirements on discharges to surface waters subject to the federal Clean Water Act. For discharges to surface waters, National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System permits may be required to address either stormwater or wastewater discharges.

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