DWR is in the process of updating Bulletin 74: California Well Standards, last updated in 1991. Upon completion of the update, Bulletin 74 will be submitted to the State Water Resources Control Board for adoption into a Statewide Model Well Ordinance.
DWR is committed to an open and transparent process that seeks participation and collaborative input from stakeholders and the public.
Learn about DWR’s planned approach for updating Bulletin 74 by viewing the recorded Kick-off Webinar held in June 2019. Please note that updates have been made in the project timeline since the kick-off webinar (see below) and the “Expert Panel” referred to in the presentation is now called the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) and is scheduled to meet in two phases from March 2021 to March 2022.
- Hold TAC Phase 1 Meetings: March – June 2021
- Revise Standards: July – October 2021
- Hold TAC Phase 2 Meetings: November 2021 – February 2022
- Prepare Administrative Draft Standards: March – June 2022
- Conduct Internal Review: July - August 2022
- Release for Public Comment: September 2022
- Revise Standards: October – November 2022
- Publish Final Standards: December 2022
Get involved in the update of the DWR Bulletin 74, California Well Standards in the following ways:
- Sign up to receive email updates on Bulletin 74.
- Review recommended edits submitted by the California Conference of Directors of Environmental Health (CCDEH) in collaboration with the California Groundwater Association (CGA).
- Share your ideas about improving the standards by submitting comments to the Bulletin 74: California Well Standards Comment Portal or by emailing Bulletin74@water.ca.gov.
- Reach out to TAC members who represent your interests.
- Provide public comments once the Public Review Draft is released.
- Bulletin 74-2: Recommended Minimum Water Well Construction and Sealing Standards for the Protection of Ground Water Quality, Alameda County (Preliminary Edition, 1962)
- Bulletin 74-3: Water Well Standards, Del Norte County (1966)
- Bulletin 74-4: Water Well Standards, Central Hollywood, Santa Monica Basins, Los Angeles County (1974)
- Bulletin 74-5: Water Well Standards, San Joaquin County, Final Supplement (1969)
- Bulletin 74-6: Water Well Standards, Fresno County (1968)
- Bulletin 74-7: Water Well Standards, Arroyo Grande Basin, San Luis Obispo County (1971)
- Bulletin 74-8: Water Well Standards, Shasta County (1968)
- Bulletin 74-9: Water Well Standards, Ventura County (1968)
A Brief Legislative History of the Well Standards
The Legislature has a long history of concern with groundwater impairment through improper construction or abandonment of wells. In 1949, it enacted Chapter 1552, Statutes of 1949, adding Water Code Section 231, which directed the Department of Public Works (now DWR) to:
…investigate and survey conditions of damage to quality of underground waters, which conditions are or may be caused by improperly constructed, abandoned or defective wells through the interconnection of strata or the introduction of surface waters into underground waters. The department shall report to the appropriate California regional water quality control board its recommendations for minimum standards of well construction in any particular locality in which it deems regulation necessary to protection of quality of underground water, and shall report to the Legislature from time to time, its recommendations for proper sealing of abandoned wells.
During the 1965 and 1967 General Sessions, the Legislature again reviewed the matter of standards for water well construction. As a result, it established a procedure for implementing standards by enacting Chapter 323, Statutes of 1967, which added Water Code Sections 13800 through 13806. The wording of these sections was amended in 1969 when the Legislature enacted the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act (Chapter 482, Statutes of 1969). In Water Code Section 13800, DWR's reporting responsibility is enlarged upon.
Water Code Section 13801 was amended in 1986, detailing the current procedures for implementation and specifically including monitoring wells.
In 1996, the Legislature added Water Code Section 13800.5, requiring DWR to develop standards for geothermal heat exchange wells (GHEWs).
The 2014 Sustainable Groundwater Management Act added Water Code Section 10726.4, which reaffirms the established procedures and authority for well permitting.
California Laws for Water Wells, Monitoring Wells, Cathodic Protection Wells, and Geothermal Heat Exchange Wells
Laws that directly relate to the construction, alteration, maintenance, and destruction of water wells, monitoring wells, cathodic protection wells, and geothermal heat exchange wells are contained in the following sections of the California Water Code and Health and Safety Code:
California Water Code
- Division 1, Chapter 2.5, Article 2, Surveys, Investigations, and Distribution of Water, Section 231
- Division 1, Chapter 2.5, Article 4, Waste from Artesian Wells, Sections 300 – 311
- Division 1, Chapter 8, Article 3.5, Water Measurement: Metered Service, Section 525
- Division 6, Part 2.74, Chapter 5, Conservation, Development, and Utilization of State Water Resources, Sustainable Groundwater Management, Powers and Authorities, Section 10726.4
- Division 7, Chapter 10, Article 1, Declaration of Policy, Sections 13700 – 13701
- Division 7, Chapter 10, Article 2, Definitions, Sections 13710 – 13713
- Division 7, Chapter 10, Article 3, Reports, Sections 13750.5 – 13755
- Division 7, Chapter 10, Article 4, Quality Control, Sections 13800 – 13806
Health and Safety Code
Our well standards provide minimum standards for the construction, alteration, maintenance, or destruction of wells to prevent pollution of groundwater and protect groundwater quality. Groundwater can become polluted when poor-quality water, pollutants, or chemicals enter a well and the well becomes a pathway for pollution to enter the groundwater from the ground surface. Contamination also occurs when poor-quality groundwater, pollutants, or chemicals already in an underground layer enter a well and then move through the well to another underground layer containing good-quality water. Well standards preserve the integrity of groundwater resources, enabling the groundwater supply to be used by future generations.
By law, we are responsible for issuing standards for constructing, altering, maintaining, and destroying wells to protect groundwater quality. We issue standards for four types of wells – water wells, monitoring wells, cathodic protection wells, and geothermal heat exchange wells. Items addressed by our well standards include:
- Siting of wells away from pollution sources
- Casing materials
- Annular seal materials, dimensions, and placement
- Surface features—pads, locks, covers, backflow preventers, vaults
- Well development
- Rehabilitation, Repair, and Deepening
- Destruction (decommissioning)
Yes. For special types of wells, performance standards are required by other agencies in addition to our standards.
The State Water Resources Control Board-Division of Drinking Water (SWRCB-DDW) has special requirements for public water supply wells to protect public health. Public water supply wells supply drinking water to 15 or more service connections. The SWRCB-DDW, and some local agencies, enforce these standards. In addition, the SWRCB has requirements for constructing groundwater monitoring wells at regulated facilities, such as municipal landfills and gasoline stations with underground tanks. The SWRCB and its Regional Water Quality Control Boards enforce these standards. (The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency has published standards for some types of wells.)
The California Department of Toxic Substances Control (DTSC) has recommended guidelines for constructing groundwater monitoring wells at hazardous waste sites. The purpose of these recommended guidelines is to ensure that these wells provide accurate information about chemicals in groundwater in toxic areas. DTSC approves design of wells built for obtaining samples for chemical analysis.
Local Enforcing Agencies (LEAs) such as local governments, counties, cities, and some water districts are responsible for enforcing standards that are either equal to or more stringent than our well standards. Permitting and enforcement are carried out by the LEAs, such as the County Department of Environmental Health. These agencies issue permits for well construction, alteration, or destruction; enforce well ordinances in their jurisdiction and they also conduct inspections. To determine who enforces well standards in your community, contact your local county environmental health department or visit our Permitting Agencies webpage.
DWR Bulletin 74: California Well Standards represent minimum statewide standards for well construction, alteration, and destruction. Local jurisdictions, including counties, cities, and water districts, have authority under the Water Code to adopt local well ordinances that meet or exceed the statewide standards. Steps 1 through 5 below summarize the implementation process of the well standards from Water Code sections 13800 – 13806:
1. RECOMMEND: DWR develops recommended minimum statewide standards for water wells, monitoring wells, cathodic protection wells, and geothermal heat exchange wells, published as Bulletin 74, California Well Standards, and submits them to the State Water Resources Control Board.
2. IMPLEMENT: The State Water Resources Control Board publishes a Statewide Model Well Ordinance that implements Bulletin 74 and adds permitting and inspection requirements.
3. COMPLY: Cities, counties, or water districts adopt a Local Well Ordinance for their jurisdiction that is at least as stringent as Bulletin 74 standards.
4. PERMIT: A local enforcing agency (LEA), such as a county environmental health department, is tasked with administering and enforcing the local ordinance through the well permitting process. If a local well ordinance is not adopted, then the LEA must enforce the Model Well Ordinance. Wells supplying Public Supply Systems must comply with additional requirements for certification by the State Water Resources Control Board – Division of Drinking Water (DDW). Therefore, consultation with DDW prior to public supply well construction is advised.
5. INSPECT: Wells may be inspected by the LEA during and after construction, modification, or destruction for compliance with the well ordinance. Well drillers must submit well completion reports to DWR within 60 days.
Drywells, or “stormwater injection wells”, do fall into the definition of a water well per the Water Code, so they will be addressed in our standards when updated. We currently serve on the State Water Resources Control Boards’ Drywell Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) which is developing guidance for stormwater injection wells. We will coordinate these efforts – our well standards will address the well structure underground to prevent unregulated flow of surface water entering the aquifer, and State Water Resources Control Board guidance will address pre-treatment and siting to ensure flow into the subsurface meets water quality requirements.