Pollution prevention can be defined as the reducing or eliminating of waste at the source by modifying production processes, promoting the use of non-toxic or less toxic substances, the implementation of practices or conservation techniques including activities that reduce the generation and/or discharge of the pollutants, and the application of innovative and alternative technologies which prevent pollutants from entering the environment prior to treatment. These preventive activities can also include new equipment designs or technology, reformulation or redesign of products, substitution of raw materials, updating or improvements of existing management practices, continued maintenance of previously implemented management practices, training and education/outreach, and improved collaboration.
Pollution prevention begins at the source. Sources of water quality pollution can be categorized into two types: point-source and non-point-source. In California, point-source pollution prevention is addressed through the Clean Water Enforcement and Pollution Prevention Act of 1999, Water Code Section 13263.3(d)(1), which authorizes the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB), a regional water quality control board (RWQCB), or a publicly owned treatment works (POTW) to require a discharger to prepare and implement a pollution prevention plan.
A point-source discharger is defined per Water Code Section 13263.3(c) as any entity required to obtain National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) permit or any entity subject to the federal pretreatment program. A non-point discharger is any discharger not covered by a NPDES permit.
Pollution prevention can contribute to the protection of water quality for beneficial uses by protecting water at its source and therefore may reduce the need and cost for other water management and treatment options. By preventing pollution, restoring, and then protecting improved water quality throughout a watershed, water supplies can be used and reused by a greater number and types of downstream water uses. Protecting water quality through appropriate pollution prevention is consistent with a watershed management approach to water resources problems.