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Are You Ready for the Revisions to California’s Safe Drinking Water Act?

Providing safe, reliable water is becoming a greater challenge in California.

Will your food processing or manufacturing operation need a new or improved water source? Revisions to the California Safe Drinking Water Act have modified the process for obtaining a permit to improve or install a water supply system. While the State Water Resources Control Board is the ultimate authority, the Board may delegate administration and enforcement to a county health officer provided they meet certain criteria. This makes it necessary to plan ahead because the process can take six months to complete. Recent changes may extend the time needed to obtain a permit. According to Senate Bill 1263, as of January 1, local authorities must have State Water Board concurrence before approving a new permit. Applicants now must submit a preliminary technical report, or functional equivalent, to the State Board at least six months before initiating construction. The preliminary technical report must include the following:

  • Identify public water systems within three miles.
  • Discuss the feasibility of annexing, connecting, supplying, or purchasing water related to adjacent public water systems.
  • Discuss actions taken to obtain water from an existing public water system.
  • Identify the sources of water for the proposed new public water system.
  • Estimate the cost to construct, operate, and maintain the proposed new water system.
  • Cost comparison constructing and operating a new water supply system with connection to an existing public water system.
  • Hydrogeologic analysis of the proposed new water system’s capability to meet water supply demands during normal dry water years over a 20-year period.
  • Any other information required by the local agency.

If an existing public water system is available, the permit will not be approved. However, if an existing public water system is not available and all the information above is complete, the applicant may submit those documents, or functional equivalents, to the Board. When reviewing the permit request, the Board must consider the sustainability of the new proposed water system in light of global climate change, migration of contaminated groundwater, and other factors that could significantly erode the system. The Board determines either the proposed water system is feasible for the intended purpose or denies the permit if the proposed water system will be unable to provide safe water in the reasonably foreseeable future. The ability to provide safe, reliable water is becoming a greater challenge in California. In response to this challenge, stricter government regulation is now in place. Make sure you allow sufficient time to obtain your water permit. More information can be found on the State Water Resources Control Board Information for Public Drinking Water Systems website.


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