San Diego Region - Enforcement


What We Do ...

The Compliance Assurance Unit (CAU) serves to ensure compliance with State and Federal laws, regulations, policies, plans, and permits to preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of California' s water resources. Potential formal enforcement actions are identified within Regional Board programs/units for review by the Compliance Oversight Group (COG). The COG will prioritize and select violations for formal enforcement by the CAU. The CAU also provides in-house enforcement training, acts as the central dispatch of CalEPA environmental complaints, and the liaison with various multi-agency environmental task forces, and the Statewide Enforcement Roundtable meetings.

Why We Do It ...

Obtaining and ensuring compliance is the fundamental manner in which we meet the state's water quality objectives. Focusing our efforts on formal enforcement actions allows us to take action where we were previously unable. This in turn frees up technical staff to provide compliance assistance to dischargers, such as updating outdated permits to conform to changing laws or technology; to review monitoring reports to determine water quality conditions; and to conduct more inspections, find, and confirm that minor violations have been corrected.

How We Do It ...

A focused enforcement effort allows us to produce timely, evenhanded and consistent enforcement actions. Consistent and publicized enforcement actions send a strong message to dischargers that compliance is acknowledged and commended, and that violations will be met by a prompt enforcement response to deter future non-compliance. Over time, enforcement effectiveness will increase, thereby producing measurable results to be used to determine the state of compliance. In cases where environmental harm can be restored, that becomes the primary objective of an enforcement action. In cases where the violations have caused irreparable harm, enforcement actions focus on ensuring that similar violations do not occur in the future, and issuing monetary penalties to create a significant deterrent to the discharger and the regulated community. For more information about the types of formal enforcement actions, please refer to Appendix A of the State Water Board's Enforcement Policy.


In accordance with the State's Enforcement Policy, advisory and prosecution staff members (led by the Executive Officer and Assistant Executive Officer, respectively) meet at least annually to discuss regional enforcement priorities. Currently, regional enforcement priorities focus on enforcement of violations that affected one or more key beneficial use categories (i.e. municipal water supply, fish and shellfish consumption, recreation, and ecosystem health) in a key area for the specific use. Consistent with our Practical Vision goal of focusing work on the most important issues, this approach to prioritizing enforcement ensures that violations which potentially do harm in the most important water body areas are not overlooked. However, it is not the only determinate factor when selecting cases for formal enforcement. Other factors considered include variables such as timing/case readiness, available resources, program-specific enforcement priorities, degree of harm to receiving waters, and Enforcement Policy priorities such as considerations for environmental justice, racial equity, disadvantaged communities, and the human right to water. In April 2018 the San Diego Water Board adopted Resolution No. R9-2018-0043, reflecting these regional enforcement priorities.


For a list of administrative civil liability complaints (ACLs) pending hearing please refer to the ACL Complaints Webpage. For all other pending formal enforcement actions that are currently available for public review and comment, please refer to the San Diego Water Board's Tentative Orders Webpage.


The link below provides a list of all ACL Orders adopted by the San Diego Water Board, or its delegate, since the Enforcement Policy Became effective in 2010. Some of these orders, as well as other formal enforcement orders (e.g. Cleanup and Abatement Orders, Cease and Desist Orders, or Investigative Orders) are available on the San Diego Water Board's Adopted Orders Webpage. If you are seeking an enforcement order that is not available on that page, please contact any one of the enforcement staff named on this page.

Any person aggrieved by an action of the San Diego Water Board that is subject to review as set forth in Water Code section 13320(a), has a limited time period to petition the State Water Board to review the action, in accordance with Water Code section 13320 and California Code of Regulations, title 23, section 2050 and following. For more information on petitions please refer to the State Water Board's Water Quality Petitions Webpage.


Formal and informal enforcement actions are recorded in one of three Statewide databases; enforcement of all stormwater violations is tracked through the SMARTS database; the CIWQS database reports most other enforcement actions related to surface water violations (including actions recorded in SMARTS); and the Geotracker database reports enforcement actions related to this region's irrigated lands program, and unauthorized discharges to land (e.g. site cleanup, Department of Defense, and leaking underground storage tanks). Each of these databases are publicly accessible and searchable though the hyperlinks provided above.

No less than quarterly, the San Diego Water Board provides a summary of enforcement actions to its Board through the Executive Officer's Report. For access to these reports, please refer to the Executive Officer's Reports Webpage.

Additionally, the State Water Board's Office of Enforcement produces reports related to violations and enforcement occurring Statewide. This information is available on the State Water Board's Enforcement Reports Webpage.


The State Water Board's Office of Enforcement (OE) was created in mid-2006 to emphasize enforcement as a key component of the Water Boards' water quality regulatory functions and statutory responsibilities. OE provides both technical and legal resources to the Water Boards' enforcement efforts and is responsible for developing and updating Statewide plans and policies related to enforcement. Links to these plans and policies are provided below:

The State Water Boards' Water Quality Enforcement Policy articulates enforcement expectations and priorities for the State and the nine Regional Water Boards.

The State Water Board's Policy on Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEP Policy) describes the process by which a settling party can propose an environmental project to satisfy part of a monetary assessment imposed through settlement. More information about Supplemental Environmental Projects (SEPs) for this region can be found on the San Diego Water Board's Environmental Projects Webpage.

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