Enforcement Priorities

The Water Quality Enforcement Policy recommends that the Office of Enforcement propose enforcement priorities and vet them with the Regional Water Board enforcement teams. Some of the enforcement priorities may become statewide enforcement initiatives.

The Enforcement Policy also recommends, that, on an annual basis, enforcement staff for each Regional Water Board seek input at a regularly noticed public meeting of the Regional Water Board and consider identifying general enforcement priorities based on input from members of the public and Regional Water Board members.

State / Region Enforcement Priorities Last Discussion of Priorities
State Board
  • Compliance Rate: Significantly increase the compliance rate for core enforcement programs with a focus on the most vulnerable communities, as identified by CalEnviroScreen or other relevant data.
  • Collaboration: Increase enforcement activities conducted in collaboration with federal, state, and local agencies, Tribes, district attorneys, and private attorneys to maximize effectiveness of enforcement efforts.
  • Performance: Identify enforcement goals and track enforcement performance measures that drive meaningful enforcement and focus on programs with low compliance rates.
  • Communications: Promote enforcement actions to raise awareness among the media and public about the Water Board’s efforts to protect water quality and the environment.
Region 1
  • Prioritize and pursue enforcement cases for waste discharge violations associated site development and use for cannabis cultivation without applicable permits.
  • Prioritize and pursue enforcement cases for waste discharge violations associated with agricultural activities other than cannabis cultivation.
  • Prioritize and pursue enforcement cases for individuals/entities conducting unauthorized dredge/fill activities in surface waters.
  • Pursue timely enforcement on missed deadlines in existing enforcement orders.
  • Prioritize and pursue regulatory oversight and enforcement for violations of NPDES stormwater permits

Additional Screening Criteria

  • Violation has resulted in threats/impacts to critical habitat.
  • Violation has affected a water of the state that resource protection agencies, including the Water Boards, have spent money restoring.
  • Violation is contributing to a watershed impairment.
  • Violation has resulted in impacts to a public drinking water supply that serves a disadvantaged or severely disadvantaged community or a community with financial hardship.
  • Violation was caused by or resulted from activities conducted without a required permit(s) or authorization(s) from the Regional Water Board.

The Region may also pursue enforcement for unexpected significant cases outside of these priorities including, but not necessarily limited to, those that involve high threats, significant impacts, or egregious discharger conduct.

Region 2
  • Focus discretionary enforcement on egregious violations with the highest adverse water quality impacts, followed by violations that threaten the integrity of the Board’s requirements. These cases may include, for example, the following:
    • discharges that result in fish kills or other acute aquatic impacts; 
    • illegal fill of streams or wetlands, including violations at permitted stream or wetland projects;
    • violations of site cleanup requirements;
    • sanitary sewer overflows; and 
    • violations of construction, industrial, and municipal stormwater permits.
  • Also continue to maintain near-zero backlog of mandatory minimum penalty assessments.
Region 3
  • Address violations that pose an immediate and significant threat to water quality or result in significant detrimental impacts to human health and/or the environment.
  • Prioritize violations associated with discharges that impact water quality in Underrepresented Communities*.
  • Prioritize violations associated with discharges that result in drinking water supplies exceeding drinking water standards for individuals and/or small communities.
  • Address violations involving falsification of information and non-compliant dischargers that realize a significant competitive economic advantage over compliant members of the regulated public.

*Underrepresented Communities include, but are not limited to, Disadvantaged Communities (DACs), Severely Disadvantaged Communities (SDACs), Economically Distressed Areas (EDAs), Tribes, Environmentally Disadvantaged Communities (EnvDACs), and members of Fringe Communities.

Region 4
  • Increase collaboration with all Regional Water Board Programs in identifying non-compliance and taking follow-up enforcement.
  • Decrease the frequency and quantity of sewage spills by ranking and addressing sanitary sewer permit violations and taking formal actions for spills over 50,000 gallons.
  • Address 100% of violations requiring a mandatory minimum penalty (MMP) within 18 months of discovery.
  • Direct more liability payments towards SEPs in disadvantaged communities through our new partnership with the Rose Foundation.
  • Continue to implement the Enhanced Stormwater Industrial General Permit Compliance Pilot Project in the San Jose Creek subwatershed. The metrics for the Pilot Project include measuring the effects of focused implementation of the Industrial General Permit on surface water quality, changes in Annual Report water quality data, changes in the number of enrollees in the pilot project area, and changes in MS4 Permittee compliance.
  • Participate in CalEPA’s Environmental Justice Initiatives to identify, inspect, and enroll non-filers into the Industrial General Permit.
  • Implement a Stormwater Industrial General Permit Compliance Assurance Initiative in the cities of Pomona, Paramount, and Los Angeles. Staff will collaborate with the cities’ business licensing programs to identify and enroll non-filers into the Industrial General Permit.
  • Facilitate implementation of the amended Industrial General Permit through outreach, education, training, and a series of workshops with the regulated community.
  • Continue non-filer outreach and take progressive enforcement as appropriate
Region 5
  • Permitting and Compliance and Enforcement Coordination
  • Staff and seniors meet with Compliance and Enforcement staff on a bi-weekly basis to ascertain the status of ongoing compliance issues at facilities slated for permit revisions. Both Compliance and Enforcement and Permitting staff discuss potential compliance and permitting issues prior to permit adoption. These discussions occur at biweekly Permitting & Compliance and Enforcement Coordination meetings attended by management and Executive Sponsors.

  • CV-SALTS Non-Enrollment Enforcement
  • In FY 20/21, the CV-SALTS Basin Plan amendments became effective and notices to comply were issued to dischargers. Responses have been received in FYs 20/21 and 21/22, with program staff tracking responses in a database or spreadsheet. Responses from these 1,000+ facilities have been distributed among multiple program’s staff to review, evaluate, approve, and follow-up. In FY 22/23, Compliance and Enforcement Program staff will continue to coordinate with and support CV-SALTS program staff to implement the Salt and Nitrate Control Programs in NPDES permits including issuance of Notices of Deficiency, Notices of Violation, developing permit language, and ongoing enrollment for new dischargers within the Central Valley’s priority salt and nitrate control program areas.

  • Coordinate Efforts to Address Environmental Justice Issues and Issues Faced by Disadvantaged and Underserved Communities
  • Compliance and Enforcement Program staff, with assistance from the State Board’s Office of Public Participation, is continuing to engage with multiple stakeholders in the Central Valley Region including Counties, Cities, Caltrans, California Department of Fish and Wildlife, and the Central Valley Flood Control Board, to name a few, to form working groups to tackle environmental justice efforts where similar goals can be accomplished by working cooperatively, leveraging resources, and coordinating efforts.

  • Implement Business Rules to Ensure More Accurate Tracking of Goals and Enforcement Actions
  • Compliance and Enforcement staff at the Central Valley Water Board conduct inspections and issue Inspection Reports and enforcement documents like Notices of Violation (NOVs), Cleanup and Abatement Orders (CAOs), and Administrative Civil Liabilities (ACLs) in efforts to achieve compliance. To track these actions and documents, staff update corresponding databases such as the California Integrated Water Quality System (CIWQS); the California Stormwater Multiple Applications and Report Tracking System (SMARTS); and GeoTracker. While there are some guidance documents for uploading and tracking some enforcement actions, a priority for the 22/23 Fiscal Year is to ensure that there are guidance documents (or “Business Rules”) that address all entries to the databases and that the uses of these Business Rules is consistent among program staff. Program staff will continue to keep the key databases up to date while working to update guidance documents.

Region 6
  • Enforce against violations that have adversely affected groundwater quality.  Emphasis is placed on providing safe drinking when necessary, eliminating the pollutant source, and then cleanup. Examples include dairies, wastewater treatment facilities and other facilities that infiltrate treated effluent, hexavalent chromium, PCE and petroleum impacted groundwater.
  • Continue to enforce the annual reporting requirements for the NPDES Industrial and Construction Storm Water Programs.  The annual reports provide information on a Discharger’s Best Management Practices (BMPs), discharge quality, and corrective actions on an annual basis.  Improving submittal rates and taking enforcement actions on non-compliant sites should result in significant storm water quality improvements.
  • Enforce against violations where the violations are creating adverse impacts to surface water quality and beneficial uses.  Examples include unauthorized discharges of sewage, hazardous waste, and dredged and/or fill materials to creeks, springs, rivers, lakes, and wetlands.
Region 7
  • Comprehensive update of reporting and record tracking systems.
  • Utilize Expedited Payment Letter (EPL) as an alternative to formal Administrative Civil Liability Complaints for mandatory minimum penalties (MMPs) that would result in up to $51,000 or less in the assessed amount of liability.
  • Focus on Category 1 Sanitary Sewer Overflows (SSOs) and Class A priority violations.
  • Continue addressing facilities with chronic violations through progressive enforcement.
  • Adjust the amount of monetary penalties delegated to the Executive Officer to settle in matters of ACLs.
  • Continue to solicit projects to add to the Supplemental Environmental Protection (SEP) List.
Region 8
  • Continue enforcement of violations that adversely affects or threatens water quality, undermines the integrity of the self-reporting regulatory structure, or demonstrates behavior that show a pattern for failing to implement permit requirements.
  • Pay special attention to facilities that discharge high salinity wastes to unlined ponds, facilities that either fail to obtain Clean Water Act 401 certification, implement certification conditions or fail to submit required reports in a timely manner.  
  • Stormwater staff will focus on Industrial and Scrap Metal facilities that show a pattern of not sampling, with particular attention to Municipal Separate Storm Sewer Systems (MS4) Authorities’ work toward meeting receiving water quality objectives through monitoring as presented in their annual reports. 
  • Planning staff will monitor for Agricultural operators that fail to join or implement the Conditional Waiver of Agricultural Discharges.
  • Groundwater Protection Branch:
    • Ensure the timely implementation of cleanup of contaminated sites, including industrial spill sites, underground storage tanks, and Department of Defense facilities, prioritized by risk to human health and the environment, threat to beneficial uses, and Environmental Justice,
    • Ensure compliance with waste discharge requirements (WDRs) for municipal solid waste facilities, surface impoundments, and in-situ remediation to minimize impacts to groundwater quality and drinking water supply, and
    • Prioritize projects where Dischargers have demonstrated a pattern of failing to meet requirements specified in WDRs, voluntary cleanup agreements, Investigative Orders or Cleanup and Abatement Orders.
  • Surface Water & Agriculture Branch:
    • Focus on compliance with stormwater discharge permits for industrial facilities that incurred Total Maximum Daily Load Numeric Effluent Limitation exceedances, 
    • Pay particular attention to the efforts by the MS4 Authorities toward meeting water quality objectives for receiving waters through implementation of monitoring programs, as presented in their annual reports,
    • Focus on illegal Cannabis Cultivation sites, those unpermitted sites that have potential to impact streams, listed impaired water bodies, and wild and scenic waters. In addition, consideration will be made for the size and density of cultivation sites, potential to threaten drinking water supplies, and those sites near disadvantaged communities, over-drafted groundwater basins, and other conserved lands,
    • Focus on compliance with effluent limitations in discharge permits for the wastewater program; and to encourage dischargers to connect to local sanitary sewer systems.
    • Concentrate on working with the agricultural permittees to submit their notices, compliance reports, and enroll in the program, and
    • Focus on the permittees in the dairy program that have failed to submit annual reports.
  • Regional Planning Branch:
    • Concentrate on facilities that fail to submit annual reports, provide notification for beginning remediation work, or who fail to provide notification of termination of remediation projects.
Region 9
  • Prioritize enforcement of violations that affected one or more key beneficial use categories (i.e. municipal water supply, fish and shellfish consumption, recreation, and ecosystem health) in a key area for the specific use.