Protecting Oregon's Environment
Oregon State Seal
Oregon Department of Environmental Quality

Water Quality

Water Quality Trading

 WQ Info Guides:
by alphabet
by category

Water Quality Trading

Water Quality Trading Rulemaking and Internal Management Directive Revision

DEQ is developing new rules for water quality trading. DEQ will propose these rules to the Oregon Environmental Commission, seeking approval at the commission's December 2015 meeting, after receiving feedback and input from three policy forums, as well as a public comment period. If adopted, these rules will strengthen the underpinnings of DEQ’s water quality trading program and provide clarity and regulatory certainty for both stakeholders and DEQ staff.

Along with the rulemaking, DEQ will revise its existing Internal Management Directive to incorporate new information and lessons learned since DEQ embarked on a trading program a decade ago. The directive provides guidelines to DEQ staff in handling water quality trading requests. It will serve as a companion document to the rule package. View comments received on the draft Water Quality Trading IMD.

Together the rules and the revised directive are intended to further DEQ’s efforts to: establish a credible, effective water quality trading program in Oregon, provide NPDES permit holders with cost-effective and sustainable ways to meet permit requirements, and accelerate watershed restoration and attainment of water quality goals.

What is a Policy Forum?

The policy forum is a meeting where all stakeholders and interested members of the public may learn about water quality trading in Oregon and provide feedback on DEQ’s rulemaking and Internal Management Directive revision effort. With the policy forum DEQ aims to get a more diverse range of experience and opinions than could be accommodated using a traditional Advisory Committee process. The policy forum does not take the place of a public hearing held as part of the rulemaking process during the public notice and comment period.

Water Quality Trading Policy Forum - Save the Dates

DEQ invites stakeholders and interested members of the public to participate in six policy forums on water quality trading in Oregon: Thursday, Dec. 4, 2014, Thursday, Jan. 29, 2015, Thursday, March 5, 2015, Thursday April 9, 2015, and Thursday May 14th, and July 14th. At the forums, participants can learn about and provide feedback on DEQ’s efforts to develop new rules and revise existing guidance to strengthen and clarify Oregon’s water quality trading program.

View the Policy Forum page for the latest meeting information.


Water quality trading is an innovative program that allows facilities that discharge wastewater to a stream or river to meet regulatory obligations by:

  • Purchasing equivalent or larger pollution reductions from another source; or
  • Taking action to protect or restore riparian areas, wetlands, floodplains, and aquatic habitat to reduce the impact of pollutants.

Trading is based on the fact that dischargers in a watershed can face very different costs to control the same pollutant. Trading programs allow facilities facing higher pollution control costs to meet their regulatory obligations by purchasing environmentally equivalent (or superior) pollution reductions from another source at lower cost, thus achieving the same water quality improvement at lower overall cost. Trading may also allow Oregon to achieve water quality improvements more quickly than would otherwise be possible.

Water Quality Trading in National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System Permits IMD

In December 2009, DEQ updated its guidance on water quality trading to encourage and expand the use of water quality trading in Oregon. The purpose of the updated guidance, which is formally known as an internal management directive or IMD, is to provide DEQ staff with a consistent framework for evaluating water quality trades implemented through the NPDES permit program. The IMD will also provide interested parties with information on the DEQ process for evaluating trading opportunities.

The update to the IMD clarified it is focused on NPDES permittees because DEQ expects the majority of trading activity to be driven by the need to comply with total maximum daily load wasteload allocations or other requirements in NPDES permits, such as mass load limitations. However, it may be used as a framework for trading in other situations.

Permits with Approved Water Quality Trading Programs



EPA Resources

Other Water Quality Trading Resources


[print version]

For more information about Water Quality Trading contact Ranei Nomura by phone at 541-686-7799 or by email.

Oregon Department of Environmental Quality
Headquarters: 811 SW Sixth Ave., Portland, OR 97204-1390
Phone: 503-229-5696 or toll free in Oregon 1-800-452-4011
Oregon Telecommunications Relay Service: 1-800-735-2900  FAX: 503-229-6124

The Oregon Department of Environmental Quality is a regulatory agency authorized to protect Oregon's environment by
the State of Oregon and the Environmental Protection Agency.

DEQ Web site privacy notice