California Water Boards' Annual Performance Report - Fiscal Year  2019-20 



A water right permit is an authorization to develop a water diversion and use project. In deciding whether to approve applications and impose certain conditions in permits, the State Water Board is required to consider water quality control plans, including the protection of the beneficial uses of water, the public interest, reasonableness, and the public trust (protection of resources held in trust for all citizens, such as commerce, navigation, fisheries, and recreational and ecological values). Before issuing a water right, the State Water Board must find that "unappropriated" (unclaimed) water is available to supply the applicant, considering the water flows needed to remain in the stream (instream flows) for the protection of other beneficial uses, including municipal supply, agricultural supply, and fish and wildlife habitat. The water right permit specifies how much and during which season water can be diverted, and other conditions, such as special terms to protect instream flows. The right to use water is obtained through actual use of water within the limits described in the permit.

A water right license is a certificate issued to confer a vested water right under certain conditions (a vested water right is established through beneficial use of water) and constitutes the final confirmation of the water right. The State Water Board issues a license, which is issued to the appropriator when the water development project is completed, the terms of the permit have been met, and the largest volume of water under the permit is put to beneficial use. A license is issued for only that water that has been reasonably and beneficially used.

Statement of Water Diversion and Use Program
California law requires each person or organization that uses diverted surface water or pumped groundwater from a known subterranean stream to: 1) file a Statement of Water Diversion and Use (Statement); or 2) file an application to appropriate water with the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board), Division of Water Rights (Division). A Statement should be filed if water is diverted and used under a claim of riparian entitlement to the natural stream flow. A valid riparian claim is a vested right that is superior to any permit or license issued by the Division to appropriate water.

Water Diversion Measurement
In 2009, the California Water Code was modified to require diverters of water who file Statements to measure their monthly water diversions beginning in January 2012. Amended California Water Code section 5103 subdivision (e)(1) states the following: "On and after January 1, 2012, monthly records of water diversions. The measurements of the diversion shall be made using best available technologies and best professional practices. Nothing in this paragraph shall be construed to require the implementation of technologies or practices by a person who provides to the [State Water Board] documentation demonstrating that the implementation of those practices is not locally cost effective."