How much does a stormwater permit cost?

Written By: Doug Ruhlin | Oct 25, 2021

Time to Read 10 Minutes

Find out how much you can expect to pay for an NPDES stormwater permit.

We've worked with businesses across the country to secure various stormwater permits. For most who are getting a stormwater permit for the first time, there are lots of questions about what the process of obtaining and complying with a stormwater permit entails. Often, one of the first questions we get from our clients is: How much is this stormwater permit going to cost me?

Unfortunately, this is often a hard question to answer. For NPDES stormwater permits, there is no one-size-fits-all price, as stormwater permitting costs can vary greatly depending on a few different factors. However, you can start to get a better idea of what you can expect to pay for a stormwater permit by digging into these factors and exploring how they apply to you.

So, let's clear the air and dive into what you can expect to pay for a stormwater permit, no matter who you are!

So, how much does a stormwater permit cost?

As a ballpark figure, you can expect a stormwater permit to cost you anywhere between nothing (yes, FREE!) and $5,000+. Yes, that's a pretty big range. What could cause such a drastic difference between these prices? The cost of a stormwater permit really boils down to these three variables:

  • Where is your facility located?
  • What type of stormwater permit does your facility need?
  • What are the hidden and/or ongoing stormwater permit costs?

Since that still doesn't narrow it down very much, let's take a closer look at each of these factors and how they impact what you can expect a stormwater permit to cost you.

If you're fuzzy on the subject of NPDES stormwater permits, here are some additional articles which you may find helpful:

How much does a NPDES Stormwater Permit Cost

Your facility's location impacts stormwater permitting considerations & costs.

A huge factor in stormwater permit prices is the location of your operation. Every state across the country deals with stormwater permits a little differently. In some states, the Federal USEPA issues the NPDES stormwater permits, and almost always that means their Multi-Sector General Permit (MSPG). Some states run their own stormwater permitting program, issue their own permits, and have their own, state-specific version of the MSGP. Conversely, other states run their own specialized stormwater permitting programs and have one or more different types of general stormwater permits available to seek coverage under.

So, where you are located, who issues the permits, and what type(s) of permits you have at your disposal can make a huge difference, particularly when it comes to the fees associated with those permits.

While many / most states charge for NPDES permits in some way, shape or form, the Federal USEPA does not charge any fees for applying or obtaining coverage under the NPDES MSGP stormwater permit, but that’s only in the very small handful of places where they are the primary delegated NPDES permitting authority (as of right now, Massachusetts, New Hampshire, New Mexico, District of Columbia, U.S. territories, and on federal and tribal lands.) So, if you are able to get a Federal MSGP stormwater permit where you're located, you may not have to pay a dime to get covered under that permit! Unfortunately, you can't just pick and choose the stormwater permit with the lowest cost. If you're located in a state that runs its own stormwater permitting program (and most of them do!) and you need a permit, you'll have to pay whatever they're asking.

Like a gallon of milk or a tank of gas, the cost of a stormwater permit can vary between states – sometimes significantly! If you need a stormwater permit in New Jersey, the cost will most likely be very different from one in Florida.

What type of stormwater permit do you need?

There are two main types of NPDES stormwater permits: general permits, and individual permits.

General stormwater permits are available for businesses meeting certain specific criteria. Individual stormwater permits are tailored and developed for a particular site. Again, every state handles general and individual stormwater permits a little differently, so you'll still be at the mercy of your location in terms of what's available to you.

The Cost of General Stormwater Permits

As a rule of thumb, general stormwater permits will be less expensive than individual stormwater permits. General stormwater permits typically cost anywhere between $100 - $2,500+. Some states offer dozens of different industry-specific general stormwater permits, while others have just one general permit which covers all industries.

Each general stormwater permit has different criteria that you'll need to meet to qualify for coverage. Depending on your operation and what's offered in your area, you may be able to qualify for coverage under a general stormwater permit. We suggest going with a general stormwater permit over an individual stormwater permit whenever possible. They're usually cheaper, easier to live with, and quicker to get.

The Cost of Individual Stormwater Permits

Individual stormwater permits, on the other hand, are typically more expensive than general stormwater permits. Individual stormwater permits usually cost anywhere from a few hundred dollars to upwards of $5,000+. Individual stormwater permits typically grant you a little more freedom since they will be tailored specifically to your operation and its stormwater (and sometimes process water) discharge needs. However, this means that your permitting agency will need to thoroughly assess your site, how much you discharge, where your discharges go, and what pollutants you could be expected to discharge - which you'll be paying extra for. Again, you won't necessarily have a choice here, since if you need a stormwater permit and don't qualify for a general permit, you'll be required to seek coverage under an individual permit regardless.

NPDE Stormwater Permit Costs

Additional Stormwater Permit Costs

You can expect to pay some additional costs with regards to your stormwater permits, but it all depends on the permit and the permitting agency in question. Some stormwater permits require a fee for an annual renewal, which again, will vary in price. Some stormwater permits may require you to pay for some changes to your site, such as constructing stormwater management features like retention areas or settling basins.

You'll also almost certainly need to develop a SWPPP (Stormwater Pollution Prevention Plan), as well as a stormwater training program, or have them developed for you. You can develop a SWPPP and training program yourself, but if you're not familiar with them, you'll need to take the time you'll spend on them into account too. If you're fuzzy on this term, check out these two helpful articles:

Then there are various costs related to stormwater sampling, monitoring, testing, and facility upkeep. For example, if you need to take samples and have their parameters analyzed, there will be lab fees to pay for. Plus, if you and your staff can't or don't want to take the samples, you may need to pay someone to do that for you. And if your samples exceed benchmarks or limits, you may need to tweak your site to get better samples, meaning anything from buying and placing haybales at discharge locations to "filter" your discharge, to modifying discharge features to prevent polluted water from freely leaving your property.

In fact, this same logic goes for the entire process of figuring out which permit you need, applying for it, and figuring out what you need to do to comply with it. You'll need to consider whether the amount of time you'll end up spending on your stormwater permit will be better spent elsewhere and if it will be a better use of money and time to just hire an expert to develop your stormwater program for you.

Here are some additional articles covering some of the long(er) term considerations with regards to staying in compliance with your stormwater permit:

How much does it cost to hire a stormwater permit expert?

Just because you can get a stormwater permit, doesn't necessarily mean it's in your best interest to obtain coverage on your own. To make a perfect analogy, it's like trying to do your taxes by yourself. Sometimes it's no big deal, sometimes you need to call an accountant.

If you know what you're doing, then filing the paperwork and staying on top of your requirements is pretty easy. If this is outside your wheelhouse, then getting into compliance with a stormwater permit may be a herculean effort that's not worth your time to figure out (meaning, call an expert).

Generally, you can expect hiring a stormwater permit expert to cost you a few hundred dollars to several thousands of dollars, depending on numerous factors, such as:

  • How much does the stormwater permit consultant need to do for you? Are they looking over your shoulder, or are they doing the entire thing for you?
  • What type of permit do you need? Getting your operation into compliance with a simple, easy to live with permit should be cheaper while having a consultant help your facility obtain an individual permit is going to cost more money.
  • How much stormwater permitting "help" are they providing? If you need a SWPPP developed, on-site training, someone to take your stormwater samples, submit your results, file annual reports and/or certifications, etc., then you will most likely spend more money on a stormwater consultant.
  • Are there any additional services needed to obtain stormwater permit coverage? If you need additional services as engineering or surveying, you should expect to pay more to get your permit.

As you can see, it generally boils down to how much help you need getting your permit initially, and how much assistance you'll need long term with regards to staying in compliance with your stormwater permit.

Closing Words on Stormwater Permit Costs

To put it as matter of fact as possible, the costs of stormwater permits are all over the place and depend entirely on your operation and where you're located. Some stormwater permits are free, some are expensive. Some permits will require you to pay annual fees, while others won't. Some may require changes to your site or other additional hidden fees, while others may never cost you a dime. The final price you’ll pay really for your stormwater permit, and the long-term compliance costs, depends on your location and the permit you need. In any event, if you meet the criteria for needing a stormwater permit, you'll have to get one.

Stormwater permits can be confusing and complicated. You may want to hire a stormwater permit professional from the start if you have any stormwater permitting needs. They will be able to help figure out which stormwater permit is best for your business, apply for and obtain a permit, create stormwater management plans, and help you stay in compliance with your stormwater permit.

Need additional stormwater permit help?

We've helped more businesses with stormwater permits than we can count over the past 30+ years here at RMA. We've seen and done it all when it comes to stormwater discharge permits, from small organizations that needed a simple general permit, to giant multi-national organizations with complex operations that need complex individual permits for dozens of sites across the United States - and everyone in between.

If you're still confused about whether or not you even need an NPDES stormwater permit, which permit to get, how to apply for it and obtain coverage, what you need to do to stay in compliance with your stormwater permit, or anything else related to your company's stormwater or environmental programs - give us a shout. We'd be more than happy to take the weight off of your shoulders!

Even if we're not a good fit for your business, we’ll do our best to steer you in the right direction. Feel free to contact us at, click here to contact us, or give us a call anytime at 888-RMA-0230 to learn how we can help your operation deal with stormwater permits and other environmental regulations.

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