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Groundwater Issue: Permitting
California relies upon groundwater to meet its water supply needs (including for drinking water supplies, agriculture, industry, recreation, and wildlife habitat beneficial uses). During a typical year, approximately 30 to 40 percent of the state's total water supply comes from groundwater. During dry years, groundwater contributes up to 60 percent (or more) of the state's total supply, and serves as a critical buffer against the impacts of drought and climate change. Groundwater is also a significant source of California’s drinking water supply; approximately 40 to 50 percent of Californians rely on groundwater for part of their water supply, and many towns and cities are entirely dependent on groundwater for drinking water supplies.
The Water Boards protect groundwater quality by issuing permits for activities that may impact groundwater quality. If current or proposed activities or, discharges, from your property or business could affect California's groundwater (or surface water or coastal water), in most cases you need to apply for a permit. Permitting programs are based on the type of discharge and the threat to water quality, including:
- DRINKING WATER – The Division of Drinking Water (DDW) permits public drinking water systems to ensure the purity and quality of the water consumed by the public. More information...
- Waste Discharge Requirements – The Waste Discharge Requirements (WDR) program regulates discharges from domestic (e.g., sewage) and industrial sources (e.g., food processing aggregate, etc.) through three types of permits (WDRs, conditional waivers of WDRs [Orders], and enrolling dischargers under General WDRs). More information...
- IRRIGATED LANDS – The Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (ILRP) regulates discharges from irrigated agricultural lands to prevent agricultural discharges from impairing the waters that receive these discharges through issuing WDRs and Orders to growers. More information...
- LAND DISPOSAL – The Land Disposal Program regulates the water quality of discharges of certain solid and liquid wastes (from landfills, mines, surface impoundments, waste piles, etc.) to land through issuing WDRs. More information...
- COMPOSTING – The State Water Board regulates commercial composting operations to ensure that composting waste discharges pose no threat to water quality through individual or General WDRs, or Orders. More information...
- RECYCLED WATER – The statewide General Waste Discharge Requirements for Recycled Water Use facilitates the use of treated wastewater that meets standards set by the California Department of Public Health (CDPH), in order to reduce demand on potable water supplies. More information...
- SEPTIC SYSTEMS – The Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS) Policy established statewide standards for the operation and maintenance of septic systems (or OWTS) to minimize the risks to public health and water quality, and recognizes the effectiveness of local permitting agencies. More information...
- AQUIFER STORAGE AND RECHARGE – The statewide General Waste Discharge Requirements for Aquifer Storage and Recovery (ASR) Projects that Inject Drinking Water into Groundwater facilitates the use of treated drinking water to recharge groundwater aquifers, which is recovered later from the aquifers when it is needed. More information...
Keep up to date on the Water Boards’ groundwater activities: subscribe to one or more email lists and receive announcements and updates by email.
Have a program-specific question? Ask the program. Contact information is available on the program's website (accessible through the Programs tab).