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Groundwater Monitoring: Oil & Gas Production Areas - SB4

Water Quality in Areas of Oil and Gas Production

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Performance Measures for Model Criteria: New information is now available

Produced Water Pond Inventory Status Report

Senate Bill 83 Section 45 (statutes of 2015) requires that the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) post on its website a status report on the regulation of oil field produced water ponds within each region by January 30, 2016, and every six months thereafter.  For the purposes of this report, a produced water pond is a surface impoundment used to store and/or dispose of produced water.  In California, produced water ponds are predominantly unlined and used to dispose of produced water through evaporation and/or percolation.

Produced water ponds are permitted only when the local Regional Water Quality Control Board (Regional Water Board) determines that the discharge will not adversely impact water of current or potential future beneficial use.  The report includes the total number of ponds in each region, the number of permitted and unpermitted ponds, enforcement actions, and the status of permitting the unpermitted ponds.

Below is a table summarizing the status of our review of produced water pond inventory as of December 1, 2015.

Regional Water Board¹

Active Ponds

Inactive Ponds

Total Ponds

Number of Ponds under Enforcement Actions²







Central Coast








Central Valley
















¹Other Regional Water Boards are in the process of collecting produced water pond information.  Information on other regions will be provided in subsequent reports. Details on produced water ponds are available here. Updates to this table are currently scheduled for July 30, 2016 and every six months thereafter.

²Enforcement Actions include Informational Orders (13267), Notices of Violations (NOV), and Cleanup and Abatement Orders (CAO). For more detailed information please refer to the footnotes of detailed status report table here.

Arroyo Grande Aquifer Exemption

The California Department of Conservation, Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources, with concurrence from the State Water Resources Control Board, has submitted an aquifer exemption proposal to the United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) for the Dollie sands of the Pismo formation in the Arroyo Grande oil field in San Luis Obispo County. The proposal meets the criteria under the federal Safe Drinking Water Act because: 1) the geologic formation does not currently serve as a source of drinking water and will not in the future since it contains oil and/or natural gas; 2) the injection of fluids will not affect the quality of water that is, or may reasonably be, used for any beneficial use; and 3) the injected fluid will remain in the exempted aquifer.

Subject to approval by the EPA, the proposed aquifer exemption would allow for Class II injection into the proposed exempted area, either for enhanced oil recovery or for injection disposal of fluids associated with oil and gas production.

More information about the EPA's process is available on their website at: http://www.epa.gov/uic/aquifer-exemptions-underground-injection-control-program.


Groundwater Monitoring in Areas of Oil and Gas Well Stimulation

State Water Board developed and adopted Model Criteria for Groundwater Monitoring in areas of Oil and Gas Well Stimulation (Model Criteria) as part of the added requirements by Senate Bill 4 (statues of 2013) to the Water Code, section 10783.

The Model Criteria has three main components:

  1. Area- Specific required groundwater monitoring near stimulation wells by operators
  2. Requirements for Designated Contractor Sampling and Testing
  3. Regional scale groundwater monitoring to be implemented by the State Water Board

In 2015, to satisfy one of the provisions of SB 4, State Water Board and Division of Oil, Gas, and Geothermal Resources (DOGGR) formed a Memorandum of Agreement (MOA) to delineate the agencies respective authority, responsibilities, and notification and reporting requirements associated with well stimulation treatments and well stimulation treatment-related activities, including water quality monitoring.

FACT SHEET: Model Criteria for Groundwater Monitoring in Areas of Oil and Gas Well Stimulation – (en Español)

Groundwater Monitoring Prior to July 1, 2015

In late 2013, State Water Board and DOGGR developed Emergency Interim Regulations which included Interim groundwater monitoring requirements. Effective January 1, 2014, well operators were required to submit either an approved groundwater monitoring plan or a letter from the State Water Board staff concurring that there is no protected water to monitor for their well stimulation permit. Operators who received well stimulation permits prior to July 1, 2015, shall follow the Emergency Interim Regulations to comply with the groundwater monitoring requirements for those stimulated wells.

Oil Field Produced Water

Produced water is brought to the surface during oil and gas production activities, and it is composed of different constituents including oil and gas. Produced water can be disposed of in either class II injection wells, produced water ponds, or is recycled. Class II injection wells include enhanced oil recovery (EOR) wells, and disposal wells. Class II injection wells are permitted through DOGGR and produced water ponds are permitted though the Regional Water Quality Control Boards.

Contact Information

envelope   Receive updates by email oil and gas related activities, subscribe to our Oil and Gas Groundwater Monitoring (SB4) email list, located in the "Water Quality Topics" category.

Questions or Comments? Please contact us at OilandGas@waterboards.ca.gov or (916) 323-1308.


(Updated 4/14/16)