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The California Water Boards' Annual Performance Report - Fiscal Year 2011-12


MESSAGE:  The composition of the enforcement response has changed overtime with an emphasis on compliance actions.



Violation Type 2000 2001 2003 2003 2004 2005 2006 2007 2008 2009 2010 2011




The data shows that shows that the enforcement response varies by the year the violation occurs, in some cases violations received an enforcement action years after the date the violation occurs. Enforcement response is organized in 4 groups, violations receiving no enforcement is very low and ranges between 5% and 22%, on the contrary, the percentage of violations receiving the highest level of enforcement (a penalty or a compliance action) has been between 4% and 7%. There is also a significant variation by regional board with some regions addressing violations only at the informal level.


The 2009 Water Quality Enforcement Policy guides staff in selecting the appropriate level of enforcement response that properly addresses violations and recommends the use of progressive enforcement. The policy describes progressive enforcement as “an escalating series of actions that allows for the efficient and effective use of enforcement resources.” Depending on the nature and severity of the violation, an informal enforcement action such as a warning letter to a violator, or a more formal enforcement action, including orders of the Boards requiring corrective action within a particular time frame, may be taken. In other instances, enforcement staff may use more informal tools, such as a phone call or a staff enforcement letter for compliance assistance. In the Water Quality Enforcement Policy appropriate enforcement response is related to the ranking and classification of violations grouped around enforcement cases. The priority enforcement cases are then identified and those with class I priority violations are targeted for formal enforcement action. Tracking violations and the enforcement response over time is necessary to assess the effectiveness of the Water Boards enforcement policies and actions.


  • Data Source: SMARTS. Extracted in August 2012.
  • Unit of Measure:Violations documented. Violations linked to an enforcement action.
  • Data Definitions: Violations with status "violation". Violations are not double counted and are grouped in 4 groups: Group 1: Violations not linked to an enforcement action with a status active or historical. Group 2: Violations linked to a penalty action with a status active or historical. Group 3: Violations linked to a compliance action with a status active or historical but not to a penalty action with a status of active or historical. Group 4: Violations linked to all other types of enforcement actions with a status of active or historical.
  • References: The Water Boards' NPDES Stormwater Program
    Public Reports and Data
    Enforcement and Compliance Assurance Information
    The Water Boards' Enforcement Policy


National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES)
The NPDES permit program (Section 402 of the Clean Water Act ) controls water pollution by regulating point sources that discharge pollutants into waters of the United States. Point sources are discrete conveyances such as pipes or man-made ditches. Individual homes that are connected to a municipal system, use a septic system, or do not have a surface discharge do not need an NPDES permit; however, industrial, municipal, and other facilities must obtain permits if their discharges go directly to surface waters. US EPA has approved the Water Board's program to issue NPDES permits.

Construction Stormwater Program
Dischargers whose projects disturb one or more acres of soil or whose projects disturb less than one acre but are part of a larger common plan of development that in total disturbs one or more acres, are required to obtain coverage under the General Permit for Discharges of Storm Water Associated with Construction Activity Construction General Permit Order 2009-0009-DWQ. Construction activity subject to this permit includes clearing, grading and disturbances to the ground such as stockpiling, or excavation, but does not include regular maintenance activities performed to restore the original line, grade, or capacity of the facility.

Industrial Stormwater Program
Discharges associated with 10 broad categories of industrial activities are regulated under the Industrial Storm Water General Permit Order 97-03-DWQ (General Industrial Permit), which is an NPDES permit.

Formal Enforcement
Formal enforcement actions are statutorily recognized actions to address a violation or threatened violation such as Cleanup and Abatement Orders.

Informal Enforcement
An informal enforcement action is any enforcement action taken by Water Board staff that is not defined in statute, such as staff letters and notices of violation.

Compliance Actions
Formal enforcement actions that directly require compliance using the authority established under Article 1 of Chapter 5 of the California Water Code such as Cease and Desist Orders, Cleanup and Abatement Orders and Time Schedule Orders.

Penalty Actions
Formal Actions that impose or settle a penalty or requires the completion of a project associated to a monetary amount.

All Other Enforcement Actions
All other formal and informal actions that communicates a violation or starts the procedures of an enforcement case or that requires additional information or starts an investigation.
Type of Enforcement Action Description Classification
Expedited Payment Offer A conditional offer that provides a discharger with an opportunity to resolve any outstanding violations subject to mandatory minimum penalties by acknowledging them and providing full payment of the accrued mandatory penalties identified in the payment letter


Verbal Communication Any communication regarding the violation that takes place in person or by telephone.


Staff Enforcement Letter Any written communication regarding violations and possible enforcement actions that is signed at the staff level.


Notice of Violation A letter officially notifying a discharger of a violation and the possible enforcement actions, penalties, and liabilities that may result.  This letter is signed by the Executive Officer.


Notice to Comply Issuance of a Notice to Comply per Water Code Section 13399.


13267 Order A letter utilizing Water Code Section 13267 authority to require further information or studies.


Clean-up and Abatement Order Any order pursuant to Water Code Section 13304.


Cease and Desist Order Any order pursuant to Water Codes Sections 13301-13303.


Time Schedule Order Any order pursuant to Water Code Section 13300.


Administrative Civil Liability (ACL) Complaint ACL Complaint issued by the Executive Officer.


Administrative Civil Liability (ACL) Order An ACL Order that has been imposed by the Water Board or SWRCB.


Settlement A settlement agreement per California Government Code Section 11415.6.


Referral Referral to the District Attorney, Attorney General, or USEPA.


Referred to a Task Force Any referral of a violation to an environmental crimes task force.


Referral to Other Agency Any referral to another State Agency.


Third Party Action An enforcement action taken by a non-governmental third party and to which the State or Water Board is a party.


Waste Discharge Requirements Any modification or rescission of Waste Discharge Requirements in response to a violation.



( Page last updated:  9/13/12 )