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Hydro Nova


Hydro Nova brings innovative methods for dealing with wastewater to areas that lack sewer systems. In California about 1.2 million households use onsite systems, which may pollute groundwater if not properly installed or maintained. Hydro Nova focuses on educating property owners, service personnel and local officials to treat wastewater as a resource rather than an expensive liability.

Local environmental health officials issue permits for onsite systems. In California, each jurisdiction enforces its own standards. This discourages new approaches and leads to a patchwork of different interpretations throughout the state. Several years ago legislation was passed to rewrite the rules governing onsite systems. The State Water Resources Control Board was put in charge of the effort, with a deadline of January 1, 2004 to have new standards in place. That time line has slipped.

Hydro Nova has been attending meetings of a stakeholders’ group formed to help shape the revised regulations. To put it mildly, the process has been contentious. Some bureaucrats want to virtually outlaw septic systems in the state and to impose expensive new permit requirements on owners of onsite systems. Some commercial groups have blocked consideration of inspecting properties at the time of sale, a procedure that works well in Massachusetts to assure proper functioning of onsite systems. And nobody even wants to consider regulations that facilitate truly environmentally friendly means for wastewater reuse such as constructed wetlands or zero-discharge systems with composting toilets.

The Water Board is drafting a new set of standards that will be available for review sometime in October. Hydro Nova will be preparing a guide to the issues involved and posting updated information on our Web page.

Anyone who uses an onsite system in the state of California will be affected by changes in these regulations. Hearings before the Water Board are tentatively scheduled for later in the year. Hydro Nova will help make your voice heard to assure the adoption of progressive regulations.

The key to preventing onsite systems from polluting water is for owners to understand how their systems operate and when they need attention. Hydro Nova is sponsoring workshops to teach interested people about onsite systems. The first workshop will be held at the Building Education Center in Berkeley, California on Saturday, October 23 (10 a.m.–1 p.m.) and again on Wednesday, December 1 (7–10 p.m.). The workshops will cover basic principles of designing onsite systems, and how to make sure systems operate properly once installed. Contact the Center in Berkeley at (510) 525-7610 for further information.

Qualified service personnel have to be available for all those maintenance tasks that homeowners can’t or won’t do. The state has a serious shortage of such specialists. Hydro Nova intends to develop a certification curriculum for technicians who can maintain traditional septic systems as well as the more advanced treatment systems now available. There will be a demand for people who can maintain those systems, and Hydro Nova’s training program will be among the first in the nation to help fulfill that need.

New technologies are often expensive, and those used for onsite wastewater treatment are no exception. The same legislation that required California’s State Water Board to revise onsite regulations also addressed providing financial assistance for owners who need to upgrade their systems. But such assistance has never even figured into the Water Board’s considerations. Some onsite owners may be faced with huge expenses for modernization, and may be unable to find financing. Hydro Nova will fight to provide funding to help owners make the transition to more effective onsite systems.
— Bob Feinbaum

For more information, contact: To get involved with Hydro Nova, contact Director Bob Feinbaum


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