On November 16, 2011, DEC issued a Notice concerning proposed water withdrawal regulations. The proposed regulations will repeal existing 6 NYCRR Part 601 entirely and adopt a new Part 601. These regulations seek to harmonize elements of the existing Part 601 with the water withdrawal bill signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on August 15, 2011. The August 2011 statutory amendments have a broad array of legislative objectives, all of which are carried out in the proposed revisions to 6 NYCRR part 601.
ECL article 15 title 15 originally required permits solely for public water supplies with five or more service connections, regardless of the volume of water withdrawn. The amendments expand the permit program to include withdrawals for purposes beyond public water supply, such as those for commercial, manufacturing, industrial, and other purposes. However, the amendments also limit the permit program to only include withdrawals that meet or exceed a threshold volume of 100,000 gallons per day. The effect is to regulate more of the higher-volume withdrawals across the state while no longer issuing water withdrawal permits for lower-volume public water supplies.
Withdrawals below the size threshold must still comply with water pollution control laws (ECL article 17), the New York State Department of Health regulations and state environmental quality review (SEQR) requirements, as applicable. According to DEC, the purpose of part 601 is to regulate the use of New York's water resources pursuant to ECL article 15 title 15 by implementing a permitting, registration and reporting program for water withdrawals equaling or exceeding a threshold volume of 100,000 gallons per day. This Part also implements New York's commitment under the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact to create a regulatory program for water withdrawals in the Great Lakes Basin.
There are several statutory exemptions to the permit requirement. For example, agricultural withdrawals that are registered or reported to DEC under ECL article 15 titles 16 or 33 on or before February 15, 2012 are exempt altogether from the water withdrawal permit requirement, and the registration requirement for agricultural withdrawals is subject to a more generous size threshold. The proposed regulations add more exemptions. For existing water withdrawal systems that are not exempt and that are above the size threshold as of February 15, 2012, an initial permit process is provided, which is somewhat less costly and time-consuming than the standard permit process and provides additional time to comply depending on the capacity of the water withdrawal system. To take advantage of the initial permit process, existing withdrawals must be properly reported by February 15, 2012. Comments on the proposed rulemaking were accepted until January 22, 2012.