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About Russian River Clean

Russian River Clean (RRC) is a multi-stakeholder initiative driven by state and federal requirements to enhance the water quality of the Russian River Watershed for the protection of its natural environment and the health and enjoyment of its visitors.

Regulatory Framework
Federal law under section 303(d) of the  Clean Water Act mandates that each state maintain a list of impaired water bodies and set water quality objectives, supported by an action plan, to protect uses of the water. 

State law under the Cologne Porter Act assigns overall responsibility for water rights and water quality protection to the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) and directs the nine statewide Regional Water Quality Control Boards (RWQCB) to plan and enforce water quality standards within their boundaries.

Furthermore, the California Onsite Wastewater Treatment System (OWTS) Policy sets minimum requirements for septic systems statewide, including minimum operating requirements for OWTS near waters listed as impaired under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act. The RWQCBs are required to incorporate the standards established in the OWTS Policy, or standards that are more protective of the environment and public health, into their water quality control plans. Implementation of the OWTS Policy is overseen by the SWRCB and the RWQCBs, and local agencies through implementation of a local agency management program, if approved by the applicable RWQCB.

Purpose & Need
Water quality studies conducted in the Russian River and its tributary creeks, indicate a pathogen impairment which represents a potential threat to the health of the river ecosystem and the people who visit it. The North Coast RWQCB adopted the Russian River Pathogen Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL) Action Plan in August of 2019 to address the impairment and to reduce the sources of pathogens in the watershed.

Pathogen sources identified in the Action Plan include:

  • Individual onsite wastewater treatment systems (septic systems)
  • Animal waste (farm and domestic)
  • Recreational use
  • Urban runoff
  • Homeless encampments

Septic Systems

State policy establishes minimum requirements for onsite wastewater treatment (or septic) systems near waters listed as impaired under Section 303(d) of the Clean Water Act. These standards are now being applied to the Russian River Watershed. The North Coast RWQCB and the County of Sonoma are partnering to implement the new regulations.

Under the requirements of the TMDL Action Plan for the Russian River Watershed adopted to address the pathogen impairment, property owners whose septic systems do not meet the state's minimum requirements will need to repair, upgrade, or replace their system within the next 15-20 years. Where feasible, planning and construction of community wastewater systems is being explored. Grant and affordable loan opportunities for homeowners to make repairs or upgrades to individual septic systems is also being pursued.

For more information on the new septic requirements, including who is impacted by them, visit the Septic Requirements page

Lower Russian River Citizen's Advisory Group

The Lower Russian River Wastewater Citizens Advisory Group (CAG) was created to help inform property owners about efforts to develop sustainable and affordable wastewater solutions for communities in the lower Russian River subject to new state and county onsite wastewater treatment system requirements.

Most of the CAG’s volunteer members live in Monte Rio or Villa Grande, with others from neighboring communities facing similar wastewater management issues. The members have committed to engaging community members with government agencies to work toward effective, long-term solutions to wastewater issues along the lower Russian River, with priority given to affordability, practicability and openness to alternatives.

More information about the CAG and their monthly meetings can be found at

How you can help:

  • If you have a septic system, have it checked, cleaned and make sure it's functioning properly.
  • When you’re enjoying the river for recreational purposes, use a portable toilet or other restroom facility.
  • Bag and remove pet waste.
  • Make sure disposable diapers are put in a trash can or packed out.
  • Have your young child wear a swim diaper while wading, and check regularly to ensure that it's not soiled.
  • If you keep large animals, clean up their waste - and make sure contaminated runoff does not reach your local creek or the River.

Russian River Clean

Contact Information

Russian River Clean

Alisha O'Loughlin

Lower Russian River Ombudsperson

County Administrator's Office
County of Sonoma

Contact us by Email

Contact us by Phone


County Administration Building
575 Administration Drive
Suite 104A
Santa Rosa, 95403