Individual canoeing on the Meramec River through early morning fog
Photo taken by Jessica Yarbrough

The department’s Water Protection Program administers clean water and drinking water responsibilities for Missouri. The program is delegated by the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency to conduct duties for the federal Clean Water Act and Safe Drinking Water Act, and also carries out state responsibilities, such as operator certification and construction permitting. The Water Protection Program works with stakeholders, the general public and regulated facilities to comply with state and federal water regulations.

For clean water, the program regulates pollutants entering the state’s waters by issuing permits for the construction and operation of wastewater treatment facilities and stormwater discharges. Permits set wastewater treatment levels necessary to protect water quality. These treatment levels are included in permits issued to municipal, industrial and other dischargers. The program evaluates discharge monitoring and other data to determine whether facilities comply with applicable laws and whether permits are sufficient to protect water quality. The program, with the Division of Environmental Quality’s regional offices, is responsible for the inspection and monitoring of water contaminant sources and investigates complaints from the public. If a source violates the Missouri Clean Water Law, the program works with the facility to correct the problem and may assess penalties if necessary.

Drinking water well in Columbia

Water quality standards protect beneficial uses of water such as swimming, maintaining fish and other aquatic life and providing drinking water for people, livestock and wildlife. The program, with the Clean Water Commission, develops water quality standards that provide clear expectations for Missouri water quality and conducts monitoring to determine if the standards are met. Waters that do not meet these standards are placed on the impaired waters (303(d)) list, which provides a focus for special attention to restore water quality in the lakes, streams and rivers. Once a waterway is added to the 303(d) list, the department develops and implements a study to correct the water impairments. Generally, this study takes the form of a total maximum daily load document. It describes the maximum amount of a pollutant that may enter a water body without violating water quality standards.

For drinking water, the program reviews plans and issues permits for the construction and operation of public drinking water systems and requires these systems to monitor for contaminants and take corrective action if any health-based standards are exceeded. The program performs monitoring of drinking water and conducts periodic inspections and provides compliance assistance on water supply problems to cities, water districts, subdivisions, mobile home parks and other facilities.

Financial assistance is provided through the program’s Financial Assistance Center. The center provides grants and low-interest loans to local governments to assist in the construction of wastewater, drinking water and stormwater facilities.

Meet the Director - John Hoke

John Hoke, Water Protection Program Director

John Hoke became director of the Water Protection Program in April 2023. John has over two decades of experience with the Department of Natural Resources in the protection, preservation and restoration of water quality. Most recently, he served as chief of the Water Pollution Control Branch of the Water Protection Program, where he was responsible for managing and coordinating the clean water permitting, compliance and enforcement and water quality protection activities of the Branch. Before taking on the role of Branch Chief, John was chief of the Watershed Protection Section where he helped lead efforts to revise Missouri's Water Quality Standards regulation, monitor and assess Missouri waters and develop Total Maximum Daily Loads (TMDLs) for impaired waters. Earlier in his MoDNR career, John was chief of the TMDL Unit, an Environmental Scientist conducting water quality reviews in the Operating Permits Section and a water quality modeler in the TMDL Unit.

Before working for the State of Missouri, John was a project geologist with a private environmental consulting firm in Houston, Texas. John holds a Master's degree in geology, with an emphasis in karst hydrology and pollutant transport, from the University of Missouri - Columbia, and a Bachelor's degree in geology from the University of Illinois - Urbana.