No Discharge Areas

The Clean Water Act establishes two categories of water where the discharge of all boat sewage is illegal. Not only must Type III Marine Sanitation Devices--containing untreated waste--be secured in these waters, but Types I and II--with treated sewage--also must be prevented from discharging overboard.

No Discharge Areas are:

  • rivers without interstate navigation;
  • all enclosed lakes and reservoirs not used for interstate travel and where entry or exit by boats in the water is not possible, even through locks and dams.
  • areas designated by states and approved by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (U.S. EPA), such as those near shellfish beds or drinking water intakes.

States may request U.S. EPA to approve No Discharge Areas when "the protection and enhancement of the quality of some or all of the waters" within their boundaries require such environmental protection and EPA agrees there are adequate boat sewage pumpout and dump stations in the area.

Currently, discharge of boat sewage has been prohibited in all or some waters of 14 states. As increased numbers of pumpout and dump stations funded by the Clean Vessel Act are built, recreational boaters can expect to see more No Discharge Areas created.