Septic Resources


The Gold Ridge Resource Conservation District (RCD) has resources to assist residents with information regarding their Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS, commonly known as septic systems). As a non-regulatory, informational resource, the Gold Ridge RCD can help with questions about local and state regulations, provide you with confidential information about your OWTS and help identify grants and financial assistance opportunities.


Contact Information

From April 2018 through October 2018, the Gold Ridge RCD offered the Lower Russian River community ombudsperson services. However, this position has been suspended, and future ombudsperson services will possibly be offered by the County of Sonoma. More details are below:

Russian River Watershed Pathogen TMDL adoption has been delayed. The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board has delayed the public hearing to consider adoption of the Russian River Watershed Pathogen TMDL to Spring 2019 so that Regional Board staff can reassess the extent of the pathogen impairment in the Russian River watershed considering the new statewide E. coli and Enterococci standards, which will replace the fecal coliform bacteria standards currently set forth in the North Coast Region’s Basin Plan. Whatever the results of this re-assessment, Regional Water Board staff will recommend that at a minimum, the Regional Water Board adopt and incorporate into the Basin Plan a program of implementation to address known pathogen impairments and/or pathogen pollution in the Russian River and its tributaries, including provisions to correct pollution from cesspools and failing septic systems. Permit Sonoma (formerly PRMD) has just completed a series of workshops soliciting input on its Onsite Wastewater Treatment System (OWTS) Manual. Revisions to the OWTS Manual will be considered by the Sonoma County Board of Supervisors in January.

The County is considering hiring the Lower Russian River Ombudsperson internally once the North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board regulations are closer to being adopted. If you have questions prior to a new Ombudsperson being hired, please contact Amie Windsor, Supervisor Hopkins’ Field Representative at 707-565-2866 or

The Gold Ridge RCD will continue to support the lower Russian River community with OWTS concerns by providing informational resources to this website. You can also contact Sierra Cantor, Gold Ridge RCD Ecologist at or (707) 823-5244 for more information.


Regulatory Updates

Please regularly check the County of Sonoma’s Permits Department, Permit Sonoma, webpage regarding revisions to the Onsite Wastewater Treatment System (OWTS) Manual and community meetings on the same topic. Visit Permit Sonoma’s webpage >>

Please regularly check the State Regional Water Control Board’s webpage regarding changes to regulation through the Action Plan for the Russian River Watershed Pathogen Total Maximum Daily Load (TMDL), the document that will set policy for OWTS systems. Visit the Water Board’s webpage >>

You may be interested in attending a meeting of the Lower Russian River Community Advisory Group (CAG). The ten-member Citizen Advisory Group is made up of interested citizens/stakeholders representing many of the lower River communities. The CAG members provide input on the development of the upcoming planning study which will aim to identify long-term community solutions for onsite wastewater treatment systems. The meetings currently occur on a monthly basis while the draft planning study gets underway and the report is completed. Upon completion of the draft planning report, the meetings shall occur at a minimum frequency of quarterly until completion of the final planning study report. Contact Amie Windsor, Supervisor Hopkins’ Field Representative at 707-565-2866 or, to receive information about the CAG meetings.


Financial Assistance

Residents of the lower river area seeking financial assistance opportunities to bring their OWTS into compliance can consider the following funding programs:

USDA Rural Development Housing Repair Program (RH 504)

This program is suitable for individual landowners to apply independently for funding. The Gold Ridge RCD can help prepare the application, if desired. There is no deadline to apply; applications are accepted on a rolling basis. More information here >>

Site Cleanup Subaccount Program

This program is suitable for groups of landowners to apply collectively for funding. The Gold Ridge RCD may develop an application with a group of interested landowners, if there is demand. An application would likely be developed after the County’s new OWTS Manual has been adopted. More information here >>


Resource Library

Use this online library to access useful documents and videos. Learn more about the regulations and what you can do to keep your septic system running smoothly.

About the Regulations

Revised 2019 Lower Russian River Pathogen TMDL Action Plan

“Total Maximum Daily Load” (TMDL) is a regulatory term that describes the maximum amount of a pollutant, in this case pathogens or fecal indicator bacteria, that is allowed in a waterbody, in this case the Russian River and its tributaries, and serves as a planning tool for restoring water quality. The TMDL Action Plan is a document created by the Regional Water Quality Control Board. It outlines steps and actions that need to occur in order for water quality standards to be met and establishes new minimum standards for Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS).

See the Action Plan >>

See the NCRWQCB Staff Report for the Action Plan (May 2019) >>

See the August 2019 Addendum to the Staff Report >>

See the August 14, 2019 NCRWQCB Resolution to adopt the Action Plan >>

Advanced Protection Management Plan (APMP) in the Russian River Watershed

While it is not final, the APMP map shows where minimum standards for OWTS will apply. You can search by address or parcel number to see if the new rules apply to your property. Note: There have been errors with loading this map. If you have an error, try closing the page and re-opening it. Also, click within the parcel boundary to bring up information about the parcel. See the map >> or Search by address >>

Adopted County of Sonoma Onsite Wastewater Treatment System Regulations and Technical Standards (OWTS Manual), August 2019

The Sonoma Onsite Wastewater Treatment System (OWTS) Manual establishes minimum standards for OWTS at the County level. See the Manual >>

USEPA’s Homeowners’ Guide to Septic Systems (September 2012)

A comprehensive guidance document about understanding and maintaining your OWTS. Short version here>> Long Homeowner’s Guide here>>

Groundwater Protection and Your Septic System Brochure

A brochure the help OWTS owners understand the interaction between their OWTS and groundwater. See the brochure>>

Graywater Brochure (April 2010)

An informational brochure on installation and permitting requirements for graywater systems in Sonoma County. See the brochure >>

Alphabet Soup: Sonoma County Septic Regulations

A list of definitions/descriptions of commonly used acronyms relating to Sonoma County septic regulations. See the guide >>


Qualified Septic Consultants List, provided by Permit Sonoma

A list of Qualified Septic Consultants from Permit Sonoma can be found here. It is recommended that you contact Permit Sonoma directly (707-565-2849) for an updated list as they may be making updates and additions. See the List >>

The Monte Rio and Villa Grande Wastewater Treatment Project Plan of Study

The document describes the Plan of Study to analyze alternatives for compliance with Water Quality Control Board standards for wastewater disposal in the vicinity of Monte Rio and Villa Grande. See the Plan >>

© 2016 GRRCD 2776 Sullivan Rd., Sebastopol, CA 95472. All rights reserved.