Drinking Water Programs

The Division of Drinking Water (DDW) regulates public drinking water systems.

Here is a map of FOB districts and office contact information (PDF).

The FOBs are responsible for the enforcement of the federal and California Safe Drinking Water Acts (SDWAs) and the regulatory oversight of ~7,500 public water systems to assure the delivery of safe drinking water to all Californians. In this capacity, FOB staff perform field inspections, issue operating permits, review plans and specifications for new facilities, take enforcement actions for non-compliance with laws and regulations, review water quality monitoring results, and support and promote water system security. In addition, FOB staff are involved in funding infrastructure improvements, conducting source water assessments, evaluating projects utilizing recycled treated wastewater, and promoting and assisting public water systems in drought preparation and water conservation.

FOB staff work with their colleagues in the Waterboards and with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as a wide variety of other parties interested in the protection of drinking water supplies. FOB staff work closely with staff of the Division of Financial Assistance on funding for public water systems.

On the local level, FOB staff work with county health departments, planning departments, and boards of supervisors. Primacy has been delegated to certain county health departments for regulatory oversight of small water systems, and FOB staff provides oversight, technical assistance, and training for the local primacy agency personnel.

Program Management Branch, we take care of the details, so you don’t have to!

The Program Management Branch consists of the Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program Section and the Technical Operations Section.

Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program Section

The Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP) provides evaluation and accreditation of environmental testing laboratories to ensure the quality of analytical data used for regulatory purposes meets the requirements of the State's drinking water, wastewater, food, and hazardous waste regulatory programs. ELAP-accredited laboratories have demonstrated the capability to analyze samples using specific approved methods. Any laboratory submitting data to a state agency to satisfy a regulatory requirement must be ELAP-accredited. Visit the ELAP webpage for more information.

Technical Operations Section

The Technical Operations Section supports the implementation of a successful drinking water program in California. It ensures the timely adoption of appropriate regulations and standards that provide a foundation for an effective overall regulatory program and protection of public health. The Technical Operations Section administers its programs through the following units. Click on a link for contact information.

The Residential Water Treatment Device Registration Unit is responsible for ensuring that residential water treatment devices sold for purifying water meet appropriate standards.

The Regulatory Development Unit develops regulations pertaining to drinking water and to recycled water, as it relates to drinking water. It also provides templates for public notification for water systems.

The Recycled Water Unit develops water recycling criteria and regulations, evaluates water recycling projects and makes recommendations to RWQCBs about public health implications, and maintains an Alternative Treatment Technology Report for recycled water.

The Treatment Technology Unit reviews and evaluates new treatment technologies or expansion of operations of existing treatment technologies in drinking water and recycled water applications, and assists FOB staff in assessing proposed treatment facilities. Please see more information on the process for approval of treatment technology.

The Resiliency and Branch consists of the Quality Assurance Section the SAFER Drinking Water Section.

The Quality Assurance Section
The Quality Assurance Section was formed to ensure the integrity and validity of the data taken into drinking water data management systems, and to establish procedures to ensure that the data received is valid, legally defensible, and meets expected levels of precision and accuracy. This role includes verification and recommendation of the use of specific analytical methods for drinking water analyses for compliance under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The Quality Assurance Section (QAS) supports DDW FOB and LPA compliance determinations and enforcement actions, which are based upon water quality data and information received from laboratories and public water systems. In addition to Water Quality, QAS leads the Electronic Annual Report (eAR) and SAFER Clearinghouse database development, operations, and maintenance in collaboration with State Agencies and Water Systems. The data collected from water systems statewide is used to generate information for enforcement, field staff status updates, regulatory analysis, legislative decisions, and a variety of research applications. QAS also leads development of the Drinking Water Needs Assessment. QAS is also responsible for preparation of reports to USEPA, other agencies and the public; development of Quality Assurance Programs for DDW, development of performance measures documenting program activities; resiliency of water systems in response to disasters and emergencies; and the development of technical, managerial and financial capacity of public water systems. The Section also coordinates the Drinking Water Source Assessment and Protection (DWSAP) Program and assists the FOBs and LPAs in implementing source water assessment and protection measures.

The Quality Assurance Section administers its programs through the following units:

  • The Data Management Unit collects, compiles and evaluates water quality analytical results submitted by ELAP accredited laboratories for public water system compliance with the California Safe Drinking Water Act. The Data Management Unit ensures the accuracy and completeness of this data and other information reported by public water systems, which is made available to USEPA to meet State Primacy reporting requirements, and to stakeholders and the public. These responsibilities include managing and tracking public water system compliance with the California Safe Drinking Water Act and ensuring that water quality data are valid, legally defensible, and meets expected levels of precision and accuracy.
  • The Data Support Unit is responsible for supporting the development and maintenance of necessary data-related tools and analytics to support public water system compliance with the California Safe Drinking Water Act and data-driven decision making. The Data Support Unit supports the development of tools to collect and perform analytics to ensure regulatory compliance as well as public transparency and accountability.
  • The Needs Analysis Unit is responsible for performing an annual Drinking Water Needs Assessment (Needs Assessment) to provide foundational information and recommendations to guide the SAFER Program in helping struggling water systems sustainably and affordably provide safe drinking water. The Needs Assessment is comprised of three components: Risk, Cost, and Affordability Assessments.  It includes evaluations of public water systems, state small water systems, and domestic wells. The Needs Analysis Unit also manages resources such as the SAFER Dashboard, identifying Failing and At-Risk water systems, to support public transparency and accountability.
  • The Water Resiliency Unit supports and assists DDW and California's water systems with security, preparedness, and emergency response and recovery concerns in an effort to address water system concerns in the face of all-hazards. Earthquakes, wildfires, debris and mud flows, flooding, tsunamis, sabotage, terrorism, and cyber-attacks are a few of the natural and human-caused hazards that the Water Sector (one of the 16 critical infrastructures) can face. The Water Sector is acutely aware of the vulnerabilities of drinking water systems to these hazards and the imperative to increase and maintain their resilience. The enhancement of security and the ability of water systems to prevent, prepare for, respond to, and recover from all-hazards is key to maintaining a reliable and adequate supply and delivery of safe, clean, wholesome drinking water.

SAFER Drinking Water Section
California’s Human Right to Water law declares that “every human being has the right to safe, clean, affordable, and accessible water adequate for human consumption, cooking, and sanitary purposes.” The SAFER section utilizes special funding tools and engages directly with water systems and communities so that Californians who lack safe, adequate, and affordable drinking water receive it as quickly as possible. Using short- and long-term strategies, SAFER engineers provide project support as a liaison between state and public partners to ensure failing water systems on the 'Human Right to Water' list establish sustainable solutions. In doing so, SAFER minimizes the disproportionate environmental burdens experienced by some communities and advances justice for people of all incomes, races, and cultures.

The SAFER Engagement Units utilize a variety of tools to assist water systems in achieving long-term sustainable solutions including: Voluntary and Mandatory Consolidations, Water System Outreach Map Tool, Water Partnership EventsAdministratorsPoint-of-Use/Point-of-Entry Household Treatment, and SAFER Funding.

The SAFER Drinking Water Section administers its programs through the following units:

  • The Northern California Engagement Unit (NEU) is responsible for providing project support for failing water systems in the Northern California and North Coastal Sections, a region which spans from the California-Oregon border and down to Monterey County.
  • The Southern California Engagement Unit (SEU) is responsible for providing project support for failing water systems in the Central California, Southern California, and South Coast Sections, a region which spans from Merced and Tuolumne Counties down to the California-Mexico border.
  • The Rural Solutions Unit (RSU) is responsible for providing project support for failing water systems throughout California, particularly those in rural areas considering interim solutions, water quality treatment, and supplemental sources of water supply.
  • The County Engagement Unit (CEU) is responsible for regulatory oversight of Local Primacy Agencies and supporting counties with respect to regulatory needs of SB552.