Drinking Water Program

The Division of Drinking Water (DDW) regulates public drinking water systems.

Click the link for Field Operations Branches map and contact information (PDF).

The Field Operations Branches (FOB) are responsible for enforcing the federal and California Safe Drinking Water Acts (SDWAs) and overseeing about 7,500 public water systems. Their goal is to ensure that all Californians have access safe drinking water. FOB staff perform various task such as conducting field inspections, issue operating permits, reviewing plans for new facilities, taking enforcement actions for non-compliance, reviewing water quality data, and supporting water system security. They are also involved in funding infrastructure improvements, conducting source water assessments, evaluating projects that use recycled treated wastewater, and promoting drought preparation and water conservation for public water systems.

FOB staff collaborate with their colleagues in the State and Regional Water Boards and with the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) as well as a wide variety of other parties interested in the protection of drinking water supplies. They also work closely with the Division of Financial Assistance to support funding for public water systems.

At the local level, FOB collaborate with county health departments, planning departments, and boards of supervisors. Certain county health departments have been given authority to regulate small water systems, and FOB staff provides oversight, technical assistance, and training to personnel in these local regulatory agencies.

Program Management Branch, we take care of the details, so you don't have to!

The Program Management Branch consists of the Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program Section and the Technical Operations Section.

Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program Section

The Environmental Laboratory Accreditation Program (ELAP) evaluates and accredits environmental testing laboratories. This ensures that analytical data produced by these labs meets the quality requirements set by the State for drinking water, wastewater, food, and hazardous waste regulatory programs. ELAP-accredited laboratories have proven their ability to analyze samples using approved methods. Any lab that submits data to a state agency to meet regulatory requirements must be ELAP-accredited. For more information visit the ELAP webpage.

Technical Operations Section

The Technical Operations Section supports the implementation of a successful drinking water program in California. It ensures the timely adoption of appropriate regulations and standards that provide a foundation for an effective overall regulatory program and protection of public health. The Technical Operations Section operates through several units. Click the link for contact information.

The Residential Water Treatment Device Registration Unit is responsible for ensuring that residential water treatment devices sold for purifying water meet appropriate standards.

The Regulatory Development Unit develops regulations pertaining to drinking water and to recycled water, as it relates to drinking water. It also provides templates for public notification for water systems.

The Recycled Water Unit establishes criteria and regulations for water recycling, evaluates water recycling projects, and provides recommendations to Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCBs) regarding public health considerations. It also maintains an Alternative Treatment Technology Report for recycled water.

The Treatment Technology Unit reviews and evaluates new treatment technologies or expansion of operations of existing treatment technologies in drinking water and recycled water applications, and assists FOB staff in assessing proposed treatment facilities. Please see more information on the process for approval of treatment technology.

The Resiliency and Data Branch includes two sections: the Quality Assurance Section and the SAFER Drinking Water Section.

Quality Assurance Section

The Quality Assurance Section was formed to ensure the integrity and validity of the data taken into drinking water data management systems, and to establish procedures to ensure that the data received is valid, legally defensible, and meets expected levels of precision and accuracy. This includes verification and recommendation of the use of specific analytical methods for drinking water analyses for compliance under the Safe Drinking Water Act.

The Quality Assurance Section (QAS) supports DDW Field Operations Branches (FOB) and Local Primary Agency (LPA) compliance determinations and enforcement actions, which are based upon water quality data and information received from laboratories and public water systems. They also lead the Electronic Annual Report (eAR) and SAFER Clearinghouse database development, operations, and maintenance in collaboration with State Agencies and Water Systems. The data collected from water systems statewide is used for enforcement, field staff status updates, regulatory analysis, legislative decisions, and research. QAS also leads the development of the Drinking Water Needs Assessment. QAS is also responsible for preparation of reports to USEPA, other agencies and the public; development of Quality Assurance Programs for DDW, development of performance measures documenting program activities; resiliency of water systems in response to disasters and emergencies; and the development of technical, managerial and financial capacity of public water systems.

The Quality Assurance Section operates through the following units:

  • The Data Management Unit collects, compiles and evaluates water quality analytical results submitted by ELAP accredited laboratories for public water system compliance with the California Safe Drinking Water Act. The Data Management Unit ensures the accuracy and completeness of this data and other information reported by public water systems, which is made available to USEPA to meet State Primacy reporting requirements, and to stakeholders and the public. These responsibilities include managing and tracking public water system compliance with the California Safe Drinking Water Act and ensuring that water quality data are valid, legally defensible, and meets expected levels of precision and accuracy.
  • The Data Support Unit develops and maintains data-related tools and analytics to support compliance with the California Safe Drinking Water Act and data-driven decision making.
  • The Needs Analysis Unit conducts an annual Drinking Water Needs Assessment (Needs Assessment), which includes risk, cost, and affordability evaluations. They manage resources such as the SAFER Dashboard to identifying Failing and At-Risk water systems and promote transparency and accountability.
  • The Water Resiliency Unit supports water systems in terms of security, preparedness, and emergency response and recovery. The unit addresses vulnerabilities and works towards maintaining a reliable supply of safe drinking water in the face of various hazards.

SAFER Drinking Water Section

The SAFER Drinking Water Section aims to ensure that all Californians have safe, affordable, and accessible drinking water. They utilize funding tools and collaborate directly with water systems and communities to provide quick solution to those lacking safe water. SAFER engineers assist failing water systems on the “Human Right to Water” list in establishing sustainable solutions, minimizing environmental burdens, and advancing justice for people of all backgrounds.

The SAFER Engagement Units employ several tools to achieve long-term sustainable solutions including: Voluntary and Mandatory Consolidations, Water System Outreach Map Tool, Water Partnership Events, Administrators, Point-of-Use/Point-of-Entry Household Treatment, and SAFER Funding.

The SAFER Drinking Water Section operates through the following units:

  • The Northern California Engagement Unit (NEU) provides project support for failing water systems in the Northern California and North Coastal Sections.
  • The Southern California Engagement Unit (SEU) is responsible for providing project support for failing water systems in the Central California, Southern California, and South Coast Sections.
  • The Rural Solutions Unit (RSU) is responsible for providing project support for failing water systems throughout California, particularly in rural areas, considering interim solutions, water quality treatment, and additional water sources.
  • The County Engagement Unit (CEU) oversees Local Primacy Agencies and assists counties with regulatory needs related to SB552.

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