Do I Need a Permit?

Wastewater Regulation and Permitting

Wastewater generated from residential, commercial, and industrial processes contains sewage, gray water (e.g., water from sinks and showers),oil and grease and various chemical constituents. Municipal wastewater from household, commercial and/or industrial connections are typically conveyed through sewer collection systems to wastewater treatment plants where pollutants are removed prior to discharge to waters of the United States, waters of the State, or to land. Process wastewater generated from industrial facilities that discharge directly to waters of the United States, waters of the State, or to land are also required to remove pollutants prior to discharge.

National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) and Waste Discharge Requirements (WDRs)

Municipal and industrial wastewater dischargers to waters of the United States must obtain permits to discharge pursuant to the Federal Clean Water Act and California's Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act. Individual and general permits issued under these authorities must comply with the federal National Pollutant Discharge Elimination System (NPDES) requirements and the state’s Waste Discharge Requirements (WDRs).

Some wastewater discharges to waters of the State only are exempt from federal NPDES requirements, but California law may still apply. Under California law, those dischargers are issued WDRs. WDRs are also required for discharges of treated wastewater to land, such as recycled water. Reclamation requirements for recycled water produced and discharged within the Santa Ana Regional Board jurisdiction are incorporated into the recycled water producer’s NPDES/WDR individual permits.

Permits contain specific requirements that limit the pollutants in discharges. Dischargers are required to monitor their wastewater to demonstrate compliance with all requirements. Wastewater dischargers must maintain their treatment facilities, and treatment plant operators must be certified. Regional Board staff routinely inspect treatment facilities and enforce permit requirements. Many wastewater discharges are permitted individually. However, discharges that are of less threat to water quality and/or that are similar are permitted through general permits issued by the Regional Board or State Water Resources Control Board.

Wastewater discharge to land through septic systems, generally referred to as onsite wastewater treatment systems (OWTS) are currently subject to the minimum lots size requirements specified in the Basin Plan . Regional Board Staff handle exemption requests from the minimum lot size requirements until replaced by approved Local Area Management Plans (LAMPs), administered by local agencies. By May 13, 2018, new and/or replacement onsite wastewater treatment systems in areas without approved LAMPs will be subject to the applicable requirements of the OWTS Policy.

The Regional Water Board adopts permits at public hearings after consideration of public comments. To receive email notifications of upcoming comment opportunities please subscribe to the appropriate electronic mailing list.

Wastewater Program contacts:

Julio Lara (951) 782-4901, Section Chief

Susan Beeson (951) 782-4902           

Kathleen Fong (951) 774-0114

Michael Perez (951) 782-4306 

Ryan Harris (951) 394-9508

Najah Amin (951) 320-6362

Christine Silken (951) 782-7961


Wastewater Links

Regional General Wastewater Discharge Permits:
General Waste Discharge Requirements for Discharges to Surface Waters that Pose an Insignificant (de minimis) Threat to Water Quality- Order No. R8-2020-0006, NPDES No. CAG998001


Orange County projects: Ryan Harris, (951) 394-9508

Riverside County projects: Kathleen Fong (951) 774-0114

San Bernardino County projects: Michael Perez, (951) 782-4306

Newport Bay/San Diego Creek Watershed de minimis permit: R8-2019-0061

Contact: Ryan Harris, (951) 394-9508

Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements for Specific Types of Discharges, Resolution No. R8-2019-0062

Contact: Susan Beeson, (951) 782-4902


Statewide NPDES General Wastewater Discharge Permits:

Pesticide Permits

Drinking Water System Discharges

Suction Dredge Mining

Utility Vaults and Underground Structures


Statewide General Waste Discharge Requirements:

Sanitary Sewer Overflow Program

General Waste Discharge Requirements for Small Domestic Wastewater Treatment Systems

Water Reclamation Requirements for Recycled Water Use