California Water Boards' Annual Performance Report - Fiscal Year 2020-21 

This thirteenth annual Performance Report provides a mechanism to measure and evaluate both what we do and how the environment is responding to our actions, and is part of our overall effort toward developing as performance-based organizations. The Water Boards regulate more than 51,000 dischargers, and our core regulatory workload achievements for the fiscal year included review, update, or issuance of almost 700 individual permits and conducting roughly 6000 inspections.

The report presents numerous performance measures for specific outputs and outcomes that are currently tracked through Water Board data systems. These performance measures are organized under key functional categories of Water Board work and can be explored through the tabs below.

75% of Targets Achieved in FY 2020-21

Previous Year Performance Reports:

What We Do and How We Are Doing FY 2020-21 

The State and Regional Water Boards adopt plans and policies to carry out federal and State water quality protection laws. The plans and policies contain water quality standards and regulations, which form the basis of the Water Boards' regulatory actions for protecting the quality of the State's waters. The Water Boards monitor and assess the condition of the waters to determine if they are supporting their uses, detect long-term trends, and focus and evaluate regulatory efforts.

The State and Regional Water Boards identify the sources of pollutants that threaten the quality of the State's waters and regulate those sources by imposing requirements to control the pollutants, based on laws, regulations, plans and policies designed to protect water quality. The State Water Board also regulates water utilities that serve drinking water to the public. Discharges of pollutants come in various forms and amounts, and from a variety of sources. Where a discharge is being made or will be made to a water body, a permit to discharge is needed. Such permits are called "waste discharge requirements". To be effective, the Water Boards must ensure that permit requirements are enforceable. Discharger and water system's compliance with permits is assessed through review of waste discharge reports, and drinking water quality and operational reports, respectively, and inspections. Where documented violations of permit requirements occur, the Water Boards are responsible for taking enforcement actions.

The Water Boards are charged with cleaning up a broad universe of contaminated sites throughout the state. These cleanup programs have been addressing pollution from former industrial activities and leaking underground petroleum tanks for many years. Site cleanup responsibilities primarily reside within four main programs at the Water Boards: the Underground Storage Tank Program, the Site Cleanup Program, the Department of Defense Program and the Land Disposal Program. These Water Board cleanup programs are charged with ensuring sites are remediated to protect the State of California’s surface and groundwater and return it to beneficial use.

The Water Boards enforce the pollution control and cleanup requirements that are established for discharges and contaminated sites. Where violations of regulatory requirements are detected, enforcement actions of varying types and levels of stringency are taken. For the most serious violations, penalties are often imposed. The Water Boards also collaborate with federal, State, and local law enforcement, as well as other environmental agencies, to address violations. In all cases, the principal goal of enforcement is to encourage compliance with requirements so that water quality is protected.

The State Water Board provides financial assistance through various State and federal loan and grant programs to help local agencies, businesses, and individuals meet the costs of water pollution control, development of locally available sustainable water supplies, and cleanup. This funding is made available for local and regional projects that can include construction of municipal sewage and water recycling facilities, remediation for underground storage tank releases, watershed protection, nonpoint source pollution control, and other water protection projects.

The State Water Board establishes and maintains a system of water rights to help ensure that the State's limited water resources are put to the best possible use, and that the public interest is served. A water right is legal permission to divert and use a reasonable, non-wasteful amount of surface water for a beneficial purpose, such as domestic use, irrigation, industrial use, or recreation. In allocating water rights through a system of permits, licenses, and registrations, the State Water Board works to ensure that vested rights, water quality, and the environment are protected. The State Water Board may also be called upon to adjudicate water for entire systems.

Beginning with FY 2009-10, performance targets were established for certain output measures. Targets are goals that establish measurable levels of performance to be achieved within a specified time period. Thus, for each fiscal year, actual work achieved is compared to targets to better assess progress and describe Water Board performance. Targets are established by the individual Regional Water Boards in consultation with the State Water Board. They reflect differences in the needs within their respective watersheds and their work priorities given available resources.


The Water Boards have been addressing impacts from cannabis cultivation activities, and the challenges associated with providing safe and accessible drinking water to all Californians. The Water Boards provided funding to help meet the water needs of drought affected communities. The 2019-20 performance report has been a collaborative effort by many around the organization and aimed at efficiently producing the report while transferring the program, skills, and knowledge. This year reflects some of the progress we have made to migrate the performance report to a more automated, open platform that incorporates data storytelling to describe our work's relationship to water quality outcomes. We are excited about the new things we are deploying in this report and have plans for even more improvements in future fiscal years' reports.

What Is The Quality Of The State's Water?

Click to open Ecosystems page

Ecosystems Health - Water is the most precious natural resource in California and its value depends on its quality. One function of the Water Boards is to assess and report on California's water quality. This link provides an overview of the health of a variety of California's waterbodies: Coastal, Streams, Lakes, and Wetlands.



Click to open My Water Quality website

This web site, supported by a wide variety of public and private organizations, presents California water quality monitoring data and assessment information from a variety of perspectives that may be viewed across space and time. Initial web portal development concentrates on four theme areas, with web portals to be released one at a time.


Additional Reports and Plans

Stragetic Plan Update Report button     Accomplishments Report button