Nonpoint Source Program

Staff Contact: Robert Ray (406) 444-5319

Welcome to Montana's Nonpoint Source Pollution Program. Montana is known for its abundant natural resources and our water resources are used for many things such as recreation, agriculture, aquatic life support, and for drinking water. Our goal is to provide a clean and healthy environment by protecting and restoring water quality from the harmful effects of nonpoint source pollution. We believe that this can best be achieved through the voluntary actions of each and every one of us that depend on clean water for our way of life.

Point source water pollution differs from nonpoint source pollution in that it is pollution that is discharged directly from a pipe and is regulated through DEQ's permitting program. Factories and sewage treatment plants are two common types of point sources. Nonpoint source (NPS) water pollution comes from many diffuse sources and is carried into our surface and ground waters by rainfall, snowmelt, and storm water runoff. Nonpoint source pollution can include:

  • Excess fertilizers, manure, herbicides, and insecticides from agriculture lands and residential areas
  • Oil, grease, and toxic chemicals from urban runoff
  • Sediment from improperly managed construction sites, crop and forest lands, and eroding streambanks
  • Salt from irrigation practices and acid drainages from abandoned mines
  • Bacteria and nutrients from livestock, pet wastes, and faulty septic systems
  • Atmospheric deposition
  • Hydromodification (channelization and dams) and habitat alteration which can cause increased water temperatures, impact natural flow cycles, and degrade natural wildlife habitat

To implement Montana's Nonpoint Source Program, we rely on a combination of voluntary and regulatory elements applied at both a state and watershed level. DEQ's longstanding policy has been to promote a voluntary program of reasonable land, soil, and water conservation practices to achieve compliance with water quality standards for activities that create NPS pollution. Montana's  Nonpoint Source Management Plan is a tool that can be used to guide these efforts. The goals of this plan are to:

  • Inform Montana citizens about the causes and effects of NPS pollution on water quality
  • Set priorities for controlling NPS pollution on a statewide basis
  • Identify strategies for restoring water quality affected by NPS pollution
  • Describe a set of focused, short term activities in a 5-year action plan for attaining the NPS program's goals

The program's activities are reported at the end of the year in the Nonpoint Source Management Program Annual Report.

NPS pollution control at the watershed level is focused on restoring impaired waterbodies by implementing TMDLs. The rationale for the focus on TMDLs is that these provide a science-based strategy for identifying pollutants, sources, and necessary pollutant reductions that will lead to full attainment of state water quality standards. DEQ encourages and supports the efforts of local watershed groups and conservation districts to develop Watershed Restoration Plans (WRPs) that will help guide NPS pollution control efforts. 

The state of Montana receives funding annually from EPA through Section 319 of the Clean Water Act to distribute throughout the state to groups interested in implementing projects to reduce nonpoint source pollution to our waters. For more information, visit the Nonpoint Source Pollution Project Funding page.

Current NPS News

  • Five-Year Nonpoint Source Management Plan Open for Public Comment. Documents. Comment Electronically.

  • FY17 Call for 319 Nonpoint Source Project Funding Requests. See NPS 319 Funding page for details and Guidance Documents and References page for Call and Application.

  • View DEQ's 2016 319 Nonpoint Source Project Funding Webinar for details on project eligibility and and instructions on how to apply.