Santa Barbara County Local Agency Management Program

After years of effort, Heal the Ocean succeeded in helping gain approval to septic system regulations for the County of Santa Barbara, establishing an important tool for regulators to clean up faulty, polluting septic systems.


The new regulations, set forth in the County's "Local Agency Management Program" (LAMP), establish requirements for the operation and installation of new and existing septic systems, conditions for upgrade to supplemental treatment, and a new program to address groundwater pollution from faulty systems. The newly adopted program had its birth under Assembly Bill 885, drafted by then-Assemblywoman Hannah-Beth Jackson in 1999.

Heal the Ocean participated in the process of developing these regulations for over a year and provided input at a key stage, which led to the adoption of one of the first programs in the state tailored to address groundwater pollution specifically from septic systems.

You can read the entire text of the regulations through our website.

Key Milestones

  • May 2013

    State Septic System Regulations Goes Effect

    The California Water Quality Control Policy for Siting, Design, Operation and Maintenance of Onsite Wastewater Treatment Systems (OWTS Policy) goes into effect in May 2013 and starts the clock on a 2016 deadline for all counties in California to adopt their own "Local Agency Management Program," or else default to the policy's more restrictive Tier 1 standards.

    Please visit our OWTS Policy page to learn more about our role in winning approval of these regulations.

  • May 2013

    First Meeting of the County's LAMP Advisory Committee

    Santa Barbara County staff initiates a stakeholder process consisting of professional engineers, septic pumpers, the real estate community, and other interested individuals, to develop the County's own Local Agency Management Program.

    Heal the Ocean participates in this process with the other stakeholders and staff for over a year to develop the new regulations.

  • August 2014

    Regional Water Board Hearing on the LAMP

    In anticipation of a August 1, 2014 Central Coast Regional Water Board hearing on the County’s LAMP, Heal the Ocean submits comments outlining our outstanding concerns with the near-finished LAMP. We specifically identify the absence of specific policies aimed at addressing existing, polluting septic systems.

    In response to our input, the members of the Regional Water Board direct staff to develop an approach on how best to proceed in protecting groundwater resources from septic systems.

  • November 2014

    Regional Water Board Letter on the LAMP

    The Regional Water Board sends a letter to the County of Santa Barbara advising that the Local Agency Management Program should include policies to address septic systems in "problematic areas" due to high septic failure rates and groundwater pollution from septic systems.

  • November 2014

    LAMP Advisory Committee Meeting on Groundwater Protection Program

    County staff, the Regional Water Board, Heal the Ocean, and the other Local Agency Management Program Advisory Committee members hold a meeting that establishes a framework to give the County authority to implement appropriate management policies in areas where the Regional Water Board designates a groundwater basin as impaired due to pollution from septic systems.

    This new language is included in Section V of the Local Agency Management Program in the form of an "Advanced Groundwater Protection Management Program."

  • November 2015

    Regional Water Board Approves Local Agency Management Program

    On November 20, 2015, after years of effort, Heal the Ocean succeeds in helping win the Central Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board’s approval of Santa Barbara County’s plan to regulate septic systems in its jurisdiction.

    In approving the LAMP, the Regional Water Board's Resolution No. R3-2015-0037 includes specific language expressing the Board's intent "develop and implement a process to designate groundwater bodies as impaired or significantly degraded."

Thank you to all of the individuals that helped make Heal the Ocean's successful 15-year drive on behalf of septic system regulations in the County possible. From its origins with Assembly Bill 885 to the now adopted Local Agency Management Program, this is a significant step forward for our coastline.

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