Septic Permit Process

New Systems
Existing System Repair
Septic System Application Process

New Septic Systems

The process for obtaining a permit to install a new septic system in Sacramento County depends on where in the county you plan to install the system. These areas are referred to as Standard or Test Drill areas. Click on the Test Drill Map link below to locate which area your parcel is in.

Standard Systems

The standard installation area for residential septic systems consist of one dry well (seepage pit) per bedroom, 35-40 feet deep and a minimum 1,200 gallon septic tank. In the standard area soils testing is not required.  If your parcel is located in a subdivision, check with Liquid Waste Program staff for design. 

Test Drill Areas

If you are located in a test drill area, soils testing of some type will be required. Test drills are arranged through Environmental Compliance by appointment only, at least 24 hours in advance.  These appointments require the presence of Environmental Compliance staff.  A drilling rig capable of drilling a 40-50 feet hole that is at least 1 ½ feet in diameter must be used for this test.

The test hole is usually drilled by the septic system contractor who is hired to install the system.  A test hole can often be used as part of the septic system if a 3 foot diameter hole is dug for the test drill.

Test drills are sometimes conducted with a back-hoe in areas where high water tables prevent the use of typical seepage pits.  Other types of septic systems may need to be designed in areas such as this. 

Test drills do not always provide enough information about the soil to allow Environmental Compliance staff to design the system. (The success rate of test drills is approximately 90 per cent).  In the event the test drill fails, further testing must be conducted by private engineering firms.  These firms employ registered professionals who are enabled by law to perform soils testing and prepare design reports for review by this department. Those professionals are:

  • Registered Civil Engineers
  • Registered Geologists
  • Registered Environmental Health Specialists

If testing of this type is required, it can dramatically increase the total cost of the septic system installation.  If your parcel is located in the Sacramento River Delta or the Garden Highway area, you must speak to the Liquid Waste Program staff (916-875-8400) to determine the type of testing required.

Septic System Repairs (Existing Systems)

The process for obtaining a permit to repair an existing failing septic system differs from the process for a new system permit.

In the non-test area (non-hatched portion of the Test Drill Map) repairs are of two basic types:

  1. Total replacement of a system that was installed prior to existing codes.  Permit process for this type of system would be almost exactly like a new system permit described above.
  2. Addition of more leaching capacity (drywells, leach lines or trenches) to a system that was installed according to current code and has a permit on file with this department.  The current code requirement calls for replacement of 100% of the original leaching system. 

In test areas, test drills or other types of soils evaluations are typically performed before permit issuance.  These tests may be waived if certain conditions can be met.  These conditions are as follows:

A.  Test drills can be waived and a 100% replacement of original system can be installed if:

  1. Design of original system can be verified from original installation permit.
  2. Original system has performed without need of repair for a period of 8-12 years.

B.  Any repair on a system less than 8 years old will require test drill. 

Septic System Application Process


Once you have determined what type of septic system is required for your parcel, a permit to install the septic system can be issued.  An accurate plot plan of the proposed system must be submitted with the application.  Applications can be obtained from this website, directly from our office in person, by mail or by fax.  Call our office for the permit fee schedule. Please note that only a licensed contractor may apply for and install a septic system.  The contractor's license must be current and in good standing.  Contractor's licenses with the following designation are permitted to install septic systems:

  • C-36 Plumbing
  • C-42 Sanitation
  • General A Engineering

In lieu of a contractor's license, a property owner may install a septic system only if the owner-builder installs the septic system themselves.  Review the Owner​ - Builder Policy for additional information.


After the permit is completely filled out and paid for, it will be reviewed by Environmental Compliance staff.  You will need to email, fax, or leave the application and plot plan at EMD's public service counter.

Sacramento County Environmental Management Department
Environmental Compliance Division
11080 White Rock Rd., Suite 200
Rancho Cordova, CA 95670

916-875-8513 (fax)