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Water Rights - Applications for Groundwater Recharge/Storage - Tips

Tips for Filing Applications for Temporary Permits for Projects to Capture Storm Flows for Groundwater Recharge/Underground Storage

The Permitting Section of the Division of Water Rights would like to see your temporary permit application move through the application process as quickly and smoothly as possible. The following list of tips should make the processing of your application a better experience.


Conduct Early Outreach Prior to Submittal

  • Contact the appropriate Permitting and Licensing Section staff person in your project area for early consultation. You should have a clear description of your project readily available to share with staff.

  • Conduct outreach to resource agencies ahead of application submittal. Consult with California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW) Water Rights staff and include on your application form the name of the person contacted and identify any project concerns or suggestions. You may wish to modify your project description in your application based on this consultation (i.e., to include protective measures such as including fish screens in your proposed diversion works and/or limiting the intended diversion season to a period without species concerns.)

  • Conduct outreach with other legal diverters of water in the watershed. You can review the eWRIMS web mapping database to determine downstream legal users of water, including identification of any downstream reservoirs. Explain your project to interested parties and try to resolve any concerns ahead of application submittal. If you are in the Sacramento or San Joaquin River Watersheds, we suggest including Department of Water Resources and United States Bureau of Reclamation in the list of parties you contact.

  • Consult with the applicable Regional Water Quality Control Board staff in your project area regarding any potential water quality concerns and include any information provided in your application package. In addition, consult with any other relevant agencies such as Department of Water Resources, U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, Natural Resources Conservation Service, State Lands Commission, State Reclamation Board, and/or local agencies.

  • Apply for a temporary permit early with a complete package, including:
    • completed, signed Application to Appropriate Water form
    • completed Underground Storage Supplement form
    • application filing fee and CDFW fee (see Application Filing Fees section below)
    • map consistent with California Code of Regulations, title 23, section 722
    • information on measuring and recording devices as required by California Code of Regulations, title 23, section 846.
    • two complete sets of color photographs of the project site
    • data, reports, and other information to support required Findings under Water Code section 1425 (see below)

Steps in the Temporary Permit Application Process

  • Applicant identifies project, conducts early outreach, and submits complete application package.

  • Upon receipt, Division of Water Rights staff processes the application as follows:
    • Conducts an initial review for completeness and contacts applicant if any additional information is needed.
    • Reviews information relevant to water availability.
    • Prepares findings based on contents of application package and other available information.
    • Determines compliance with CEQA and considers the project's effects on Public Trust resources.
    • Prepares a Temporary Permit.
  • The application is publicly noticed and objections may be received. Pursuant to Water Code section 1428, a Temporary Permit can be issued prior to or after noticing. Applicants should be aware that temporary permits are subject to change at any time. Thus, if objections are received, it is possible that conditions of approval may change or the permit may be revoked.

  • After permit issuance, the permittee is required to comply with the terms and conditions in the permit including measurement and reporting requirements.

Application Filing Fees

On December 1, 2015, the State Water Board adopted an emergency regulation amending the water rights fee schedule for new temporary permits for diverting water from high flow events to underground storage for later beneficial use. On January 15, 2015, the emergency regulation was approved by the Office of Administrative Law amending the water rights fee schedule (New Amended Fee Schedule). The emergency regulation will remain in effect until revised by the State Water Board pursuant to Water Code section 1530.

The emergency regulation does not affect the CDFW Streamflow Protection Standards review fee. Applicants will still need to include the $850 check with their applications, payable to CDFW.

Findings Under Water Code Section 1425

Prior to issuing a temporary permit the State Water Board is required to make all of the findings listed below. To help assist in timely processing of your Application, please provide the following information in your application package:

The applicant has an urgent need for the water proposed to be diverted and used:

  • Discuss why you have an urgent need to divert and use flood flows. Provide information on the project's intersection with regional drought conditions and potential high flows in the upcoming wet season. Discuss the description of downstream fate of flood flows (e.g., downstream terminus, floodplain inundation, regulation of flow by onstream reservoir, discharge to ocean).
  • If the applicant has a pending application and the temporary permit is to provide coverage until a standard permit is issued, discuss if the applicant has exercised due diligence in pursuing an application for a standard permit (Wat. Code, § 1425(c))

The water may be diverted and used without injury to any lawful water user:

  • Conduct early outreach with other legal diverters in the watershed and make an effort to address and resolve any concerns that your proposed project may have on others. Provide documentation as part of your application package to assist staff in making required findings.
  • If the proposal for temporary permit is for only flood flows, state how the diversion will be limited either by physical diversion design or monitoring protocol.

The water may be diverted and used without unreasonable effect on fish, wildlife, or other instream resources:

  • In addition to any concerns raised by CDFW staff, the State Water Board has an independent responsibility to evaluate the proposed diversion to determine if there are any unreasonable effects on fish, wildlife, or other instream beneficial uses. The applicant should collate existing available information relevant to the watershed to be included as part of the application package.
  • Discuss how your project has been designed to minimize effects on fish, wildlife or other instream resources i.e., fish screens on diversion works, limiting diversions to only periods of flood flows, and/or any other proposed protective measures).
  • If any construction is proposed, discuss what is involved and the steps that will be taken to avoid or reduce effects on fish and wildlife resources.

The proposed diversion and use are in the public interest.

  • In your application packet, explain why your project is in the public interest. If applicable, provide a description of subsidence or overdraft conditions in the subject groundwater basin or sub-basin (e.g., CASGEM basin priority designation, drinking water supply reliability). If applicable, provide information on flood-vulnerability of downstream communities and structures.

Water Availability Information

Please include in your application any information you can provide regarding the availability of water at your proposed point of diversion during the time you intend to divert under the proposed temporary permit. Examples of useful information include the location of a relevant streamflow gage, preferably with at least ten water years of complete record, unimpaired season flow volume, information on demand of downstream users, and any calculations you have made regarding available water supply for the proposed project after accounting for all existing demand volume.

Before making the findings required by Water Code section 1425, the State Water Board shall review available records, files, and decisions which relate to the availability of water from the source at the proposed point of diversion to serve the proposed temporary diversion and use, and which relate to the rights of downstream users; shall consult with representatives of the Department of Fish and Wildlife; and shall make a field investigation, if necessary or desirable in the opinion of the State Water Board. (Wat. Code, § 1427.)


California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) Compliance / Public Trust Resources

CEQA applies to all discretionary projects proposed to be conducted or approved by a California public agency, including private projects requiring discretionary state approval, unless an exemption applies. CEQA helps to guide the Division during issuance of permits and approval of projects. Temporary Permits generally are required to comply with CEQA. Since the environmental review process can be lengthy, it is important that you plan appropriately and recognize that it will take time to complete this process.

FOR LOCAL AND STATE AGENCIES: By proclamations dated January 17, 2014 and April 25, 2014 and Executive Orders B-26-14, B-28-14, B-29-15, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. (Governor) declared a State of Emergency in California due to the ongoing extraordinary drought and directed state agencies to take various actions to help manage these drought conditions. The Governor's recent Executive Order B-36-15, dated November 13, 2015, directs the State Water Board to prioritize temporary water right permits to accelerate approvals for projects that enhance the ability of a local or state agency to capture high precipitation events this winter and spring for local storage or recharge, consistent with water rights priorities and protections for fish and wildlife. The Order also suspends CEQA for these types of temporary permits until the drought state of emergency is terminated.

Applications for temporary permits from individuals or private entities remain subject to CEQA, as described below.

If the State Water Board acts as Lead Agency for your project, CEQA requires the State Water Board, directly or under contract, to prepare the appropriate environmental documentation prior to taking any discretionary action, such as approving an application. Generally, when the State Water Board is the Lead Agency, the applicant is responsible for all costs associated with CEQA review. If the State Water Board will act as Lead Agency and you believe your project is exempt from CEQA, you should provide the basis for any possible exemption(s). A project may be exempt from CEQA if: (a) a statutory exemption applies; (b) categorical exemption applies (and no exceptions are triggered); or general rule exemption applies where it can be seen with certainty that there is no possibility that the activity may have a significant effect on the environment.

If the State Water Board acts as Responsible Agency, the applicant should provide the State Water Board the opportunity to provide preliminary comments on the administrative draft environmental document. If the environmental document has already been prepared, the State Water Board will review the environmental document prepared for the project.

Independent from CEQA, the State Water Board must consider the effect of the project on public trust resources and where feasible, avoid or minimize harm to those resources. If all or a portion of a project is found to be exempt from CEQA, an analysis will still be needed to evaluate the project’s effects on public trust resources and the beneficial uses of water. Public trust resources may include, but are not limited to, wildlife, fish, aquatic dependent species, streambeds, riparian areas, tidelands, and recreation.


Contacts for Questions

Still have questions? Please contact the appropriate staff contact for your area.


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