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State Water Board: Water Quality Programs

State Water Board - Cannabis Cultivation Water Rights


On June 27, 2016, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed Senate Bill (SB) 837, which requires the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board), in consultation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), to adopt interim and long-term principles and guidelines (requirements) for the diversion and use of water for cannabis cultivation in areas where cannabis cultivation may have the potential to substantially affect instream flows. Principles and guidelines will be incorporated into licenses issued by the California Department of Food and Agriculture under its CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing, and water right registrations will be issued under the State Water Board's Small Irrigation Use Registration Program, once available.


UPDATE: Notice of Opportunity for Public Comment, Staff Information Workshops, Board Workshop, and Public Hearing. The State Water Board is accepting public comments on the Draft Cannabis Cultivation Policy - Principles and Guidelines for Cannabis Cultivation (Cannabis Policy), Draft Cannabis Cultivation Policy Staff Report (Staff Report) and Draft General Waste Discharge Requirements for Discharges of Waste Associated with Cannabis Cultivation Activities (General Order). The comment period ends at 12:00 P.M. (noon) on Wednesday, September 6, 2017. More information on where to submit comments, information on the workshops and hearings associated with this effort, and the three draft documents available for public comment are located here.

Principles and Guidelines (Requirements) for Cannabis Cultivation

The State Water Board has developed a draft policy for water quality control (policy) to establish interim principles and guidelines for cannabis cultivation. The principles and guidelines shall include measures to protect springs, wetlands, and aquatic habitats from negative impacts of cannabis cultivation. Principles and guidelines may include instream flow objectives, limits on diversions, and requirements for screening of diversions and elimination of barriers to fish passage. The principles and guidelines may include requirements that apply to groundwater extractions.

The draft policy was released for public comment on July 7 2017, and the final policy is anticipated to be brought to the State Water Board for adoption in October of 2017. At this time the focus is on the development of interim principles and guidelines. The State Water Board may update interim principles and guidelines as reasonably necessary, pending development of long-term principles and guidelines.

Potential principles and guidelines include minimum instream flows, forbearance periods, offstream storage requirements, riparian buffers, maximum diversion rates, irrigation conservation measures, and other best management practices. Minimum instream flows and the forbearance periods help maintain natural flow variability and minimize the effects of cannabis cultivation on fisheries and wildlife by protecting water quantity during critical life stages. The riparian buffers, best management practices, and other operational guidelines help maintain healthy riparian corridors and minimize the water quality impacts resulting from cannabis cultivation.

Water Rights Registration Programs

The State Water Board currently has two water right registration programs that provide appropriative water rights for smaller diversions (less than 20 acre-feet per year) of water associated with irrigation or domestic use. The State Water Board also has a Livestock Stockpond Use Registration Program, which does not relate to the use of water for cannabis cultivation. These two registration programs that relate to domestic and irrigation use are outlined further below.

Small Irrigation Use Registration Program
The Small Irrigation Use Registration Program is currently in a limited area of the North Coast that includes Marin County, Sonoma County, and portions of Napa, Mendocino, and Humboldt counties (map of area). To address off-stream storage needs for cannabis cultivation in other parts of the state the State Water Board is developing general terms and conditions for the Small Irrigation Use Registration Program that can be applied statewide. It is anticipated that the general terms and conditions will incorporate the Principles and Guidelines.

Small Irrigation Use - Cannabis Cultivation
This program is under development and will implement the conditions set forth in the Principles and Guidelines for Cannabis Cultivation. The State Water Board is developing an online portal for registrants to submit their filings, make payments, and receive registration certificates. We anticipate launching the online portal in late 2017.

Small Domestic Registration Program (not for commercial cannabis cultivation)
The existing Small Domestic Use Registration Program is not applicable to commercial cannabis irrigation and its applicability to cannabis cultivation for personal use is determined on a case-by-case basis.


Coordinating Agencies

Related Water Boards Programs

Related Resources


To obtain a California Department of Food and Agriculture Cannabis Cultivation (CalCannabis) License, you must provide documentation of your water supply source with your cultivation license application. Certain water diversion types require completion and submittal of special forms to the State Water Resource Control Board (State Water Board). Some water right types, including Small Irrigation Use Registrations and existing Water Right Permits and Licenses do not require additional documentation.

In accordance with the Business and Professions Code Section 26060.1 (the enactment of Senate Bill 94 changed the section from 19332.2 to 26060.1, we decided to keep the original name of the forms since they are already in use.) CalCannabis requires cultivators to provide documentation to the State Water Board - Division of Water Rights by June 30, 2017 for the following situations:

  1. Water is already being diverted under a riparian water right claim. An Initial Statement of Diversion and Use must be on file with the Division of Water Rights.

  2. Pending application to appropriate water.

  3. Water is planned to be diverted and used under a riparian right and no diversion occurred in any calendar year between January 1, 2010 and January 1, 2017; Form 19332.2 (b)(5).

  4. The water diversion is from a spring that does NOT flow off the property on which it is located. The aggregate diversions from this person do not exceed 25 acre-feet in any year; Form 19332.2 (b)(4).

  5. A notice is on file with the State Water Board for the recordation of groundwater extractions and diversion of Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino and Ventura Counties; Form 19332.2 (b)(4).

  6. A diversion is regulated by a Watermaster appointed by the Department of Water Resources and included in annual reports filed with a court or the State Water Board by a Watermaster, which reports identify the persons who divert water and describe the general purposes and the place, the use, and the quantity of water that has been diverted from each source; Form 19332.2 (b)(4).

  7. A diversion is included in annual reports filed with the court or State Water Board by a Watermaster appointed by a court or filed pursuant to statute to administer a final judgment determining rights to water, for which reports identify the persons who have diverted water and give the general place of use and the quantity that has been diverted from each source. Form 19332.2 (b)(4).

If you are unsure which category your water source belongs, or need further assistance, please visit our Cannabis webpage or contact Division of Water Rights staff at CannabisReg@waterboards.ca.gov or 916-319-9427.

State Water Board Contact Information & Email Subscription

For more information about this effort, please contact us by email at: CannabisWR@waterboards.ca.gov


For water rights registrations: CannabisReg@waterboards.ca.gov

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