Raising water permit fees: The proposal

The MPCA protects and improves water quality with its permitting, compliance and enforcement, technical assistance, outreach, and training and certification activities, which are the work of the agency's water quality regulatory programs:

  • Municipal wastewater
  • Industrial wastewater
  • Municipal stormwater
  • Construction stormwater
  • Industrial stormwater
  • Septic systems
  • Feedlots

The MPCA is proposing to increase user fees to cover 30% of the cost of running each program (based on five-year average expenditures). Programs where users already pay more than 30% of program costs would not see any change. Learn more: PDF icon Water fees rule concept document (wq-rule4-19f)

Graph showing current costs of MPCA's water permitting programs

Why raise fees?

Currently, the fees the MPCA collects in its water permitting cover just 17% of the overall cost of operating the programs. The agency has not comprehensively increased fees across these programs in nearly 25 years. Fees paid by users are insufficient to cover our costs, and are inconsistent across programs. 

Most of the costs of the programs are covered by unpredictable federal funds and state monies from the Environmental Fund, Clean Water Fund, and General Fund. The Environmental Fund provides the majority of the funding for most of the MPCA’s water quality regulatory programs. Data suggest that revenue from at least some of the current funding sources will decline or fail to keep pace with inflation, making the existing funding mix unsustainable.

Support from our fee payers

In 2018, the MPCA's Water Fee Advisory Committee — with members from cities, businesses, and other entities that hold water permits — met several times to review the agency's proposed fee increases. More recently, the agency has sought input from representatives of water permit sectors, such as the League of Minnesota Cities, the Chamber of Commerce, feedlot industry leaders, and septic system professionals. Members of the Water Fee Advisory Committee and other stakeholders agreed that although no one wants fee increases, raising fees is reasonable given the circumstances. The advisory committee specifically recommended that the target for fee increases be 30% of the cost of administering the programs. We also heard:

  • Current fee revenue is inadequate to support MPCA water quality regulatory programs
  • The MPCA should use additional fee revenue to increase and improve interactions with permittees
  • The MPCA should phase in any fee increase over three to six years

The MPCA is also seeing increased demand for more innovative approaches, tailored technical assistance, and new technology review. These types of activities take more time and resources, and pull staff away from the programs' core and required functions.