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
  • Prioritize for enforcement water quality violations that impact or threaten drinking water sources, with the highest priority for enforcement and compliance assistance being given to disadvantaged communities or communities with financial hardship.
  • Enforce storm water discharge violations with the highest adverse water quality impacts, followed by violations that threaten the integrity of the regulatory program.
  • Support irrigated lands regulatory programs with formal enforcement actions aimed at obtaining substantial enrollment and compliance with current regulatory requirements.
  • Improve enrollment in and compliance with the Cannabis General Order and Small Irrigation Use Registration through formal enforcement (in coordination with other state and local public agencies) for violations associated with illegal cannabis cultivation sites.
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 on egregious violations with the highest adverse water quality impacts, followed by violations that threaten the integrity of the Board’s requirements. These include discharges that result in fish kills or other acute aquatic impacts; illegal fill of streams and wetlands, including violations at permitted stream and wetland projects; violations of site cleanup requirements; and violations of construction, industrial, and municipal stormwater permits.
  • Continue to prioritize enforcement of sanitary sewer overflows, particularly from agencies with inadequate sewer infrastructure rehabilitation programs.
  • Continue to maintain a 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
    The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board (Central Valley Water Board) is anticipated to vote on Basin Plan Amendments to the Water Quality Control Plans for the Sacramento River and San Joaquin River Basins and the Tulare Lake Basin (Basin Plans) for a Central Valley-wide Salt and Nitrate Control Program in 2018.  The Salt and Nitrate Control Program is intended to provide a framework for the Central Valley Water Board to regulate salt and nitrate throughout the Central Valley in a sustainable manner while ensuring that groundwater users whose wells are impacted with nitrates are provided safe drinking water supplies.  The Basin Plan Amendments under development include strategies, policies, and guidance to implement recommendations as appropriate from the CV-SALTS-developed Salt and Nitrate Management Plan (SNMP).  Staff working in Compliance and Enforcement for the Central Valley Water Board propose making it a priority for the 2018-19 fiscal year to determine the needs of staff developing the Basin Plan amendments to address CV-SALTS and to ensure that Dischargers are complying with the anticipated changes.
    Staffs working in compliance and enforcement for 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 2018-19 fiscal year is to ensure that there are guidance documents (or “Business Rules”) that address all entries to the databases utilized by the Central Valley Water Board. 
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.
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.
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.