Sanitary Surveys of Drinking Water Systems

State Regulations Require Periodic Sanitary Survey Inspections

A sanitary survey is a periodic inspection of water system facilities, operations, and records. We use it to identify conditions that may present a sanitary or public health risk. Washington state drinking water rules require all Group A public drinking water systems to have a routine sanitary survey once every three to five years.

The Department of Health Office of Drinking Water (ODW) conducts sanitary surveys. However, in some counties, ODW contracts with local health jurisdiction staff or an independent consultant to conduct the surveys.

Preparing for Your System's Sanitary Survey

ODW staff members will notify you when a sanitary survey is required. The surveyor then contacts you to arrange a time for the survey and tries to meet your scheduling needs. Water systems that do not schedule a survey receive another notice with a deadline for obtaining an inspection. Failure to comply with this requirement may result in:

  • Increased monthly coliform monitoring to five samples per month.
  • A Red Operating Permit.
  • State significant non-complier status and possible civil penalties.

Eight Minimum Components of All Routine Sanitary Surveys

  1. Planning and management documents.
  2. Distribution system and status of cross-connection control program.
  3. Source and sanitary control area.
  4. Source pumps and pumping facilities.
  5. Source treatment procedures and equipment.
  6. Monitoring, reporting, and data verification.
  7. Finished water storage.
  8. Operator certification status.


ODW or your local health jurisdiction collects your sanitary survey fee. If ODW collects the fee, you will get a bill with your final inspection report. If the local health jurisdiction collects the fee, it is payable when they schedule a survey or when you get your final inspection report.

The sanitary survey fee change goes into effect January 2014. Read Sanitary Survey Fee Change Q&A 331-477 (PDF) for more information.

Sanitary Survey Inspection Steps

  1. ODW informs you when you need to have a sanitary survey.
  2. You and the surveyor agree on a survey date.
  3. You arrange for system personnel to be available on the survey date so they can share system records and show the surveyor around the water system.
  4. You prepare for the inspection by gathering, reviewing, and organizing records to share with the surveyor (Water Facility Inventories, water quality results, maintenance records and so on).
  5. System personnel meet with the surveyor to discuss records and provide a tour of the system facilities, pump house, treatment unit, storage, booster pumps, distribution system, and so on.
  6. After the survey, the surveyor will give you and ODW a completed survey checklist and summary report of findings. Be sure to read the report carefully; it describes deficiencies found during the inspection.
  7. ODW will review the report and notify you in writing if any immediate follow-up action is required.
  8. You complete any corrections identified in the survey report and ODW follow-up letter. You are responsible for correcting significant deficiencies promptly. ODW expects you to correct other, less critical, deficiencies in a timely fashion, and definitely by the next survey.
  9. You notify ODW in writing when the corrections are complete or ask ODW for an extension to complete the work.
  10. ODW tracks any significant deficiencies until you correct them.
  11. You keep a copy of the survey results and any notification or compliance letters for your records.

Related Information

More Resources

Staff Contacts

If you have questions, call 800-521-0323 or ODW regional office in your area:

Southwest Regional OfficeDenise Miles, 360-584-7425

Northwest Regional OfficeBethany Brunny, 564-233-8721

Eastern Regional OfficeMark Steward, 509-329-2136