What is the SWRCB Guidance on PFAS?

In August 2019, the State Water Resource Control Board (SWRCB) of California released updated guidance for local water agencies in detecting and reporting the presence of per- and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the drinking water supply. These guidelines lowered the notification levels from 14 parts per trillion (ppt) to 5.1 ppt for certain PFAS compounds.

PFAS are manmade chemicals that are notoriously slow to break down and are known to have impacted the drinking water supply in some areas. In March 2023, The EPA proposed an MCL of 4 ppt for two PFAS compounds and 1 ppt for four others.

The State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) of California developed a PFAS Team comprised of technical and regulatory experts within the State Water Board’s Division of Drinking Water, Division of Water Quality, and the Regional Water Control Board. The team’s primary goal is to disseminate accurate information and guidance surrounding PFAS in drinking water.

What are Public Health Goals (PHG) Surrounding PFAS?

The EPA’s proposed regulation would require public water systems to monitor for these PFAS, notify the public of certain PFAS levels, and reduce PFAS levels if they exceed the MCLs in drinking water. The Division of Drinking Water requested that the Office of Environmental Health and Hazard Assessment (OEHHA) develop Public Health Goals (PHG) surrounding PFAS.

In July 2021, OEHHA released a PHG draft providing information on health effects from contaminated drinking water based on current risk assessments of principles, practices, and methods. This 632-page document offers guidance on methodology, environmental occurrence, toxicokinetic, toxicological effects, dose-response assessments, drinking water concentrations, and risk characterization.

These goals would require a contaminant’s MCL to be established as close to its PHG as is technically and economically possible, placing a strong emphasis on human health.

What are Next Steps for the SWRCB?

The SWRCB has been authorized to issue orders requiring public water systems to monitor for PFAS chemicals. Since 2020, the division has issued several general monitoring orders for California public water systems.

In October 2022, California’s Division of Drinking Water issued General Order DW-2022-0001-DDW which was rescinded despite general order set forth for the monitoring of 25 PFAS in drinking water systems that are at risk for potential PFAS contamination. The order was issued for 1,296 sources from 384 public water systems. Samples were to be collected and analyzed quarterly. Since then, a new General Order was established, DW-2024-0002-DDW, with a revised plan to require public water systems to monitor for PFAS. New sampling requirements have been outlined.

Public water systems ordered to monitor for PFAS receive direct communication from the SWRCB regarding their compliance. Entities that did not receive communication are not required to demonstrate further compliance.


Learn more about PFAS regulations and treatment options in drinking water here.

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