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In November of 1993, the Bernalillo County Commission adopted the Groundwater Protection Policy and Action Plan (GPPAP). The GPPAP outlines steps that should be taken by our community to protect one of our most valuable resources, groundwater. Our primary source of drinking water in Bernalillo County is groundwater.

Septic tanks have been identified as a main source of groundwater contamination, particularly along the Rio Grande Valley where the ground-water table is high. For this reason, both the City and County have made the removal of septic tanks and the connection of homes to municipal sewer lines along the Rio Grande Valley a priority. In addition, it is important to note that the Bernalillo County Wastewater Ordinance requires all homes to connect to municipal sewer lines if their property is located within 200 feet of a sewer line that is available for connection.

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For 30-year systems - beginning July 1, 2015, any property owner with an existing wastewater system greater than 30 years in age, and whether or not previously grandfathered, shall have the system evaluated every five years.

If you have an unpermitted system, then you will need an evaluation within 90 days unless you have connected to municipal sewer. 

Evaluations consist of getting your septic tank pumped and a physical inspection of components for your wastewater system, some of which apply to only conventional or alternative systems.

Below are examples, but not limited to:    

Conventional Treatment – determination of tank size, type of material, tank manufacturer, baffles and effluent filter.

Alternative Treatment – manufacturer, model number, determination of functionality, maintenance provider agreements.

Disposal System - number of trenches, trench width, depth of gravel, bed size, seepage pit size, drip type and size, drainfield size, pump type.

Physical Inspection – tank covers, water level, sludge and scum level, baffles, filters, tank integrity, setbacks and pumps. 

The most common cause of septic system failure is not having your septic tank pumped on a regular basis. Solids, scum and sludge layers accumulate in your tank obstructing the effluent pipe leading to your drainfield, causing a backup inside the home. 

Yes, the best-case scenario is when you have your septic pumped is to get an evaluation done. The first step in getting an evaluation is getting your septic tank pumped. Some companies will even give you a reduced price when you combine these services together. If you have had your system evaluated in the past five years, Bernalillo County will accept the evaluation.  

If you have never had the septic tank pumped, we can not be sure of the structural integrity of the tank, or if it is harming groundwater supplies or the environment. Getting your septic tank pumped and getting an evaluation done every five years will help in identifying areas of your system that may be compromised, allowing the homeowner to set aside resources and put together a plan to connect to sewer or make necessary repairs.

Preventative Maintenance

What would’ve been a $260 pumping charge every five years now becomes a $5,000 – $10,000 cost for total system replacement. Get your septic pumped and evaluated every five years.

Potential Problems

  • Obstructions (plumbing and sewage backup)
  • Foul odors and groundwater contamination 
  • Cracked septic tanks
  • Improper drainage

The amount of an evaluation is different for every contractor.

System evaluations are paid by the homeowner, but you may qualify for financial assistance, if you meet the income guidelines.



Some contractors may allow you to make payment arrangements; or you may qualify for financial assistance.


For an unpermitted system – Wastewater Operator permit, no fee.

For a 30-year system – Wastewater Operator permit, no fee.

For Connected to municipal sewer – Septic Tank Abandonment permit, no fee.


Forgoing an evaluation on an unpermitted or aging septic system may preclude the county from issuing building permits, business licenses, zoning permits, wastewater or well permits.

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