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Water Management for Farms and Agriculture

Permits for Concentrated Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs)

Environmental Conservation Law (ECL) and the Clean Water Act (CWA) require that farmers operating CAFOs in NY obtain SPDES permit coverage. DEC's Permits for CAFOs page has complete information on permit criteria.


Crop irrigation involves major water withdrawals from surface and groundwater supplies. DEC regulates water withdrawal for irrigation.

Farms that withdraw more than 100,000 gallons per day (gpd) or more of surface or groundwater in any 30-day consecutive period (3 million gallons during a 30-day period) for irrigation must either:

  • Have registered water withdrawals with the Department prior to February 15, 2012, or
  • Apply for a water withdrawal permit, if they did not register prior to February 15, 2012.

Also, farms that currently withdraw 100,000 gpd or more of surface or groundwater in any 30-day consecutive period for irrigation must:

  • Submit an annual water withdrawal report by March 31st of each year to NYSDEC.

Note: There is no filing fee for submitting water withdrawal reports. See DEC's Water Withdrawals for Agricultural Facilities page for more information.

Stormwater from Construction

DEC requires a State Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (SPDES) General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activity for certain agricultural projects that will disturb one or more acres of land. The disturbance threshold is 5000 square feet in the New York City East of Hudson Watershed. Examples include the construction of a barn or other agricultural building, stock yard or pen, and also bunk silos.

See DEC's Stormwater Permit for Construction Activity page for more information.

Some construction projects are considered "best management practices" (BMPs) for properly managing stormwater runoff. The following BMPs meet USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service (NRCS) standards and specifications and are exempt from permit requirements:

Note: BMPs other than those mentioned below require a SPDES General Permit for Stormwater Discharges from Construction Activity.

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