Changes Starting January 2015 with Regard to Water Use Reporting Thresholds in West Virginia

Senate Bill 373 has for the past year been often referred to as the Above Ground Storage Tank Bill which was passed by the West Virginia legislature during the regular 2014 session. But the bill addressed issues outside of storage tanks, including amendments to the state Water Resources Protection and Management Act, W. Va. Code §§22-26-1, et seq., (Act) and specifically two new requirements related to large volume water withdrawals from surface or groundwater sources in the state which are just now ready to come into effect.

Specifically, SB 373 amended the Act to include a lower reporting threshold for water withdrawals, which will result in additional water users having to report their withdrawals and a further requirement that monthly data be collected and submitted by large quantity users who must submit this data in its annual surveys. These changes were drafted into the law to take effect January 1, 2015. That time has arrived and the West Virginia Department of Environmental Protection (WVDEP) recently issued a press release reminding the regulated community of these changes.

Effective January 1, 2015, the reporting threshold for withdrawals from state waters will be lowered from 750,000 gallons withdrawn from surface or groundwater sources in a 30-day period to 300,000 gallons withdrawn.   Also effective January 1, 2015, anyone withdrawing above the new lower threshold must begin collecting water use data for each month so the monthly data can be included in the information required to be submitted to the WVDEP’s Water Use Section of the Division of Water and Waste Management in the annual survey which must be completed by large quantity water users.

Large quantity water users include not only those persons withdrawing in excess of 300,000 gallons over any 30 day calendar time, but also anyone that bottles water for resale, regardless of the quantity withdrawn. The changes in the Act sis not impact the exemptions maintained for certain uses. For example, uses which relate to agriculture/farm use, including watering livestock or poultry remain exempted from the reporting requirements of the Act. Finally, if you purchase water from a provider, you are not considered a large quantity user regardless of the volume you may purchase.

Previously, large quantity users which are by definition those having to make these reports could certify that their water use was within plus-or-minus 10 percent of the quantity reported from the previous year. The new survey and new requirements of the Act will require more in depth reporting regarding uses over the twelve month period.

The agency indicated in its press release that it will soon be sending letters to all existing large quantity users and to entities identified from their records as new large quantity users under the new reporting thresholds regarding the new survey and requirements for 2015, but as with any legal requirement, the burden of compliance is placed upon the regulated entity and failure to comply due to a lack of knowledge of the new thresholds will not be a defense to the new requirements.

Armando Benincasa concentrates his practice in the areas of energy law, environmental law, environmental litigation, administrative law, government affairs and lobbying. His practice consists of cases involving permitting and regulatory requirements for natural resources, including coal and oil and gas, solid waste, water resources, underground storage tanks, voluntary remediation, and the drafting of rules and statutes related to the environment.
 
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