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Well and Septic Drought Related Policy Changes

Published:  June 2, 2021

On April 21, 2021, Governor Gavin Newsom proclaimed an emergency drought for Sonoma and Mendocino Counties.  On April 27, 2021, the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors also proclaimed a drought emergency for Sonoma County.  Due to the declared drought emergency in Sonoma County, Permit Sonoma is making the following two policy shifts:

  • The dry weather season for well yield testing is opening as of June 1, 2021.  The typical dry weather season runs from July 15 to October 1 of each year.  The Director of Permit and Resource Management has the discretion to extend the dry weather season in accordance with Sonoma County Code section 7-12(1)(c).  Given the current drought conditions this years’ time frame is extended from June 1, 2021 to October 1, 2021.
  • The groundwater determination method of soil mottling is now authorized for new or replacement septic systems regardless of the level of development on a parcel or site.  Two criteria apply: 
    • Soil characteristics that lend themselves to soil mottling need to be present in the soil –and–
    • that both the Qualified Consultant and the Permit Authority are in agreement these soil characteristics are present in the soil.
    The soil characteristics will be evaluated on-site visually and/or by texture. Laboratory based soil sampling/testing for iron or other constituents is not required.

These two policy changes are applicable during the declared drought or as noted above.  The dry weather season will be re-evaluated in late September 2021 and may be extended should drought conditions remain.  The changes for soil mottling will be evaluated over the near term and the policy changes may be incorporated into the OWTS Manual.

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