Well Standards

DWR Bulletin 74 sets the minimum standards for water, monitoring, cathodic protection, and geothermal heat exchange wells, with the purpose of protecting California’s groundwater quality. Local jurisdictions have the authority to adopt standards which meet or exceed the Bulletin 74 standards. Well standards are administered and enforced at the local level. The process, from standards development through enforcement, is detailed in Water Code Sections 13800 - 13806.

DWR is in the process of updating Bulletin 74: California Well Standards. The standards were 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 More

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 and the “Expert Panel” referred to in the presentation is now called the Technical Advisory Committee (TAC).

Project Timeline

  • Hold TAC Phase 1 Meetings: Spring 2021
  • Revise Standards: Summer – Fall 2021
  • Hold TAC Phase 2 Meetings: Fall 2021 – Winter 2021/22
  • Prepare Administrative Draft Standards: Spring 2022 – Summer 2023
  • Conduct State and Partner Agency Reviews: Fall 2023 – Fall 2024
  • Release for Public Comment: Winter 2024/25
  • Revise Standards: Winter 2024/25 – Summer 2025
  • Publish Final Standards: Fall 2025

Bulletin 74 Technical Advisory Committee

The Bulletin 74 Technical Advisory Committee (TAC) is made up of 81 representatives from a broad range of sectors and geographic areas of the state, with expertise in all aspects of well permitting, design, construction, maintenance, and destruction. The TAC met between March 2021 and February 2022, breaking into smaller focus groups to advise DWR on specific topics. In Phase 1, TAC focus groups discussed sealing materials and placement, water well siting and design, stormwater infiltration wells, non-vertical wells, and well destruction. In Phase 2, TAC focus groups discussed the four well types addressed in Bulletin 74: water wells, monitoring wells, cathodic protection wells, and geothermal heat exchange wells. DWR is currently revising the Standards, taking into consideration the TAC’s input.

Bulletin 74 TAC Roster and Plenary Meeting Summaries

Engagement Opportunities

Get involved in the update of the DWR Bulletin 74, California Well Standards in the following ways:

The Bulletin 74 series includes the minimum statewide standards for construction, alteration, maintenance, and destruction of water, monitoring, cathodic protection, and geothermal heat exchange wells, as well as several regional standards published in the late 1960s and early 1970s. Though many local jurisdictions have adopted the Bulletin 74 standards directly or by reference, they do have authority to adopt standards that are more stringent in their local well ordinances. Visit Permitting Agencies to determine the requirements in your area.

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

Health and Safety Code


Julie Haas, Project Manager
Senior Engineer, Water Resources
715 P Street
Sacramento CA 95814