Iowa DNR's Twitter Iowa DNR's Flicker Iowa DNR's YouTube Iowa DNR's Pinterest Iowa DNR's Facebook | Iowa Outdoors Magazine | News | Contact Us

Site Search  search button

Water Well Construction Related Wastewater and General Permit #6

NOTICE: Proposed Renewal of General Permit #6

General Permit #6 - Well Construction and Well Service Discharges (also known as GP6) will expire on February 28, 2015. Iowa DNR proposes to initiate rulemaking to renew the permit for a second 5 year term. The proposed GP6 is identical to the current general permit except for the start and end dates listed on the permit document.

The permit renewal process includes asking for comments from individual stakeholders, stakeholder groups and other interested citizens.  A stakeholder meeting regarding the renewal was held on Wednesday, July 16, 2014.  Written comments were accepted until July 18, 2014. 

The Environmental Protection Commission will discuss the proposed General Permit #6 at their meeting on October 21, 2014 at the DNR Air Quality Building.  For more information on this meeting, please see the Environmental Protection Commission webpage.

Please use the following link to view the Proposed GP6.

General Permit #6

The 82nd State General Assembly passed legislation which required the Department to write new rules and a provide issuance of a General Permit to authorize well construction and well services related wastewater discharge when that discharge reaches a Water of the United States.  As of March 17, 2010, all well construction, well related service, and GHEX loop borehole drilling related wastewater that reaches a Water of the United States is regulated by National Pollution Discharge Elimination System permit (NPDES) General Permit #6 or GP6.

What is well construction wastewater?
Well construction wastewater is the wastewater generated by any well drilling related activity in our state.  These activities include new well construction, existing well rehabilitation and renovation, pump installation, test pumping, geothermal borehole and well drilling, and other types of drilling that access or use the groundwater for a specific purpose. This wastewater can be made up of drilling fluids or groundwater, can be very turbid, can contain geologic material, or can consist of nearly clear groundwater.  If the well drilling related discharge leaves the construction site it becomes wastewater discharge.

Any time the wastewater generated by well related construction and services discharges off-site and reaches a Water of the United States, the wastewater falls under the requirements of GP6.  GP6 requires the well related wastewater to comply with the treatment standards and discharge requirements in the general permit.  If the well construction or well services related wastewater does not reach a Water of the United States, the discharge is not subject to GP6.

Why is well construction and well service related wastewater regulated?
Many well sites are located in close proximity to waterways or other conveyances that allow the wastewater to reach a Water of the United States.  The well wastewater normally consists of drilling fluids and/or groundwater, and contains particles of natural materials like sand, silt, colloids (clays), limestone and dolomite, and possibly various chemical drill fluid enhancements.  When allowed to flow untreated, the wastewater will eventually reach a stream, river or a lake.  This can result in turbidity that can affect aquatic life and sedimentation that can create long term changes to the stream or lake bed.

In addition, drilling fluid additives and other products used in borehole construction and well servicing may contain substances that are acutely toxic when released in a water body.  These products can chemically and physically alter the receiving water and cause additional problems, such as killing aquatic life and inhibiting the life processes for all species that depend on the water.  Untreated well related wastewater affects the use and enjoyment of adjoining property owners and any citizens who can access the water.

Well construction discharge at the point of stream entry.
Well construction discharge at the point of stream entry.
Well construction discharge after mixing - downstream 200 feet.
Well construction discharge after mixing - downstream 200 feet.

What well services are included in GP6?

  • All types of new water supply well construction including:
    • Private and public water drinking water supply wells
    • Non-potable use wells such as irrigation wells, plant process water supplies and dewatering wells
    • Geothermal use water supply wells
    • Groundwater injection return wells (geothermal injection wells)
    • Geothermal loop borehole construction
    • Compressed air/gas injection well construction
  • All types of services performed on existing wells, like renovation or rehabilitation services
  • All types of well pump repair on all types of water wells when the well will be pumped to waste
  • Development, rehabilitation and test pumping on new or existing water supply wells

What well services are not included in GP6?
  • The actual production pumping and on-going operation of dewatering wells - please contact your local DNR Field Office for additional information on discharge standards for these types of activities.
  • The construction of oil and gas test wells and production wells - please contact the DNR staff listed below.

How do I comply with GP6?
Iowa's NPDES General Permit No. 6 requires the development of a well site specific well water pollution prevention plan (WWPPP or Plan) for the each well construction site where the discharge reaches a Water of the United States.  When an engineer is used to develop the well plans, an engineer must also develop and create the WWPPP for the permittee.  For wells that do not require the services of an engineer, the WWPPP can be developed by the well/landowner (permittee) or by a contractor or agent retained by the permittee to manage the WWPPP.

The WWPPP for the well construction or service event must be designed to address the anticipated treatment needs for the wastewater generated by the well project, and it must provide guidance for the implementation, inspection, and maintenance of any Best Management Practices (BMPs) or controls specified in the Plan.  The Plan shall be written to adequately treat the wastewater before it enters conveyances, streams, rivers, and lakes and before it causes environmental problems.  When work on the well project is about to begin, the local regional IDNR Field Services Office must be notified using the Field Office Notification Form (FON).

The Plan shall take into account items that will influence how the wastewater is managed, such as:
  • the location of the well on the landscape;
  • the potential protections or limitations that the landscape may provide for natural wastewater treatment;
  • the potential quantities and anticipated qualities of wastewater that may be generated during each phase of the well construction or service work;
  • the best management practices (BMPs) used both on and off of the construction site to treat the wastewater;
  • the type of BMPs that will be applied to the site and strategic locations of all BMPs used;
  • any adjustments or changes made to the BMPs after the initial installation;
  • who inspects the BMPs, how often the inspections are performed, and what is found during the inspections; and
  • certification that all permittees and co-permittees fully understand what is required under GP6.

What resources are available?

General Permit #6
General Permit #6 PDF File Format
Summary guidance - Guidance Document for Well Construction and Well Service Discharges A brief Guide to Developing a Well Water Pollution Prevention Plan and Using Best Management Practice
Summary guidance PDF File Format
BMP Guidance
BMP Guidance PDF File Format
Field Office Notification Form, #542-0018
Field Office Notification Form PDF File Format
Co-permittee Certification Roster - Appendix A (Required Form)
GP6 Co-permittee Roster PDF File Format
Well Discharge Wastewater Inspection Form - Appendix B (Required Form)
GP6 BMP Inspection Form PDF File Format
Will My Well Discharge Require General Permit #6?
Guidelines to what constitutes discharge PDF File Format


How can I find out new information on well construction discharge wastewater as soon as it is made available?

You can have updated Well Discharge Wastewater Information from the DNR sent directly to your email inbox as soon as the information is made available.

Well Discharge Listserv: The Well Discharge listserv will automatically send updates to your email inbox whenever the department has new information to distribute  This information is targeted to those who actively engage in the design and/or construction of water supply wells and geothermal wells/boreholes and those who design, install and manage the BMPs and controls used to treat well discharge wastewater. Once you subscribe, you will receive regulatory news, program updates and technical guidance as well as training opportunities in this program area.

Who can I contact for additional information?

For information about GP6 and other associated documents please contact:

Russ Tell - phone: 515-725-0462,
Iowa DNR Water Supply Engineering
502 E 9th Street, Des Moines, IA 50311

Wendy Hieb - phone: 515-281-7804,
Iowa DNR NPDES Wastewater Permits
502 E 9th Street, Des Moines, IA 50311

Who should I contact if I suspect that a stream, river, or lake is being impacted by water well related wastewater discharge?

You should contact your local IDNR Field Office if you suspect a waterbody is being impacted by a well discharge. Please use the link below to find the nearest Field Office and their contact information.

Useful web links:

Please check back periodically to obtain the latest information regarding well discharge wastewater or consider subscribing to the well discharge wastewater listserv.