Proposed Changes to Santa Cruz County OWTS Regulations: What You Need to Know

Proposed Changes to Santa Cruz County OWTS Regulations: What You Need to Know

The Santa Cruz County government is proposing significant changes to the requirements for permitting on-site wastewater treatment systems (OWTS). The proposed Local Agency Management Program (LAMP) and related ordinance amendments aim to enhance water quality protection and promote stricter standards for OWTS installations and replacements. In this blog post, we will highlight some of the key changes outlined in the proposed 6/7/21 LAMP and their potential impact on property owners in Santa Cruz County.

Increased Groundwater Separation Requirements

One of the key changes involves the minimum groundwater separation for replacement systems, which will increase from 1-3 feet to 5-8 feet. However, this requirement can be met through the use of enhanced treatment systems. It is estimated that this change will affect approximately 1,500-3,000 parcels.

Enhanced Treatment for Nitrogen Removal

In fast percolating sandy soils within nitrate concern areas, all new and replacement systems will be required to have enhanced treatment systems with nitrogen removal. This change is expected to impact around 1,500-2,000 parcels.

Enhanced Treatment for Replacement of Seepage Pits

Replacement of all seepage pits will now require enhanced treatment systems. This change is estimated to affect 1,000-2,000 parcels.

Qualified Professional Design and Soil Testing for System Repairs

Under the proposed regulations, system repairs will no longer be designed by contractors but by qualified professionals who must also conduct soil and percolation testing. This change ensures that repairs are carried out by knowledgeable experts.

Evaluation of OWTS at Property Transfer

All OWTS will be evaluated at the time of property transfer, including system condition, permitted status, performance, and likely requirements for future upgrades. Property owners who have deferred the installation of enhanced treatment systems will be required to do so at the time of transfer.

Increased Use of Enhanced Treatment Systems

As a result of the tighter requirements for conventional systems, the percentage of permits requiring enhanced treatment is expected to increase from 16% to 30-40% of future permits. This change aims to improve water quality protection.


The proposed changes to Santa Cruz County's OWTS regulations reflect a commitment to safeguarding water quality and environmental conservation. By increasing groundwater separation requirements, implementing enhanced treatment systems, and conducting evaluations at the time of property transfer, the county aims to ensure that OWTS installations and replacements meet higher standards.

Property owners should familiarize themselves with these proposed changes and understand their potential impact on future property transactions and system upgrades. It's crucial to stay informed about the latest regulations to ensure compliance and protect the environment for the benefit of current and future generations.

Please note that the information provided in this blog post is based on the proposed 6/7/21 LAMP and related ordinance amendments. For complete and up-to-date regulations, refer to the official documentation or consult with local authorities or professionals well-versed in Santa Cruz County's OWTS regulations.

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