Septic Systems Focus of Proposed New Statewide Policy- Kern County Department of Public Health Looks to REALTOR® Members to Help Educate Consumers- Regulations in effect August 1, 2017

Latest policy effort follows rounds of public workshops, review and feedback to ensure that surface waters and groundwater used for drinking is safe for consumption.



The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) has drafted a new policy to meet the legal mandate that requires the State Water Board to develop statewide regulations or standards for septic systems. This proposed policy was rewritten in response to public comments made regarding the prior proposed regulation. This overview is to explain what the policy requires of owners of small, domestic septic systems and other types of onsite wastewater treatment systems that fall under the proposed policy. 

In this and all documents related to the State Water Board’s proposed policy, the term Onsite Wastewater Treatment System(s) (OWTS) is used. (OWTS are commonly referred to as septic systems or septic tanks, however other types of onsite wastewater treatment systems are occasionally used and covered by this proposed Policy.)


How Does the New Proposed Policy Affect Septic Tank Owners?

More than 95 percent of current OWTS owners that are covered by the policy are expected to experience little or no change in the manner in which their systems are regulated. If an individual OWTS is currently in good operating condition, and it is not near a stream, river, or lake that the State has identified as polluted with bacteria and/or nitrogen-related compounds – then this proposed policy would have little or no effect on that property owner. It is estimated the proposed policy will affect less than five percent of existing OWTS. 


Who Will Be Affected By the Proposed Policy? 

Owners of existing septic systems adjacent to an impaired surface water body, someone installing a new or replacement OWTS, and owners of an existing system that has failed.

Each state is required by federal law to routinely assess the quality of its surface waters to determine if they support the beneficial uses designated for the waters. Common beneficial uses for surface water include drinking water, support of aquatic life, and recreational contact-sports such as swimming. Owners of OWTS that are located adjacent to a surface waterbody that exceeds water quality standards for bacteria or nitrogen compounds, such as nitrates, may have to retrofit the septic system with supplemental treatment. Maps of water bodies impaired by bacteria (pathogens) or nitrogen compounds (nutrients) can be viewed on the State Water Board’s website at:


How to Stay Informed 

The goal, for those who think they might be affected, is to both stay informed and participate. The State Water Board has created a website where you can find the most current information regarding development of the new proposed policy:

In addition, you can subscribe to the e-mail list by using the following link:

Please contact Kim Schaefer at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it. or (661) 635-2306 with any questions or concerns.