Cannabis Cultivation Waste Discharge Regulatory Program
The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board's role in the inspections is to evaluate compliance with the Basin Plan, the California Water Code, and the Clean Water Act. Regional Water Board staff inspections are focused on compliance assistance and enforcement. Compliance assistance generally is aimed at ensuring those that are required to enroll in the Order do so, verifying tier status, review of conformance with standard conditions and BMPs, and review of adequacy and implementation of applicable water resource protections plans, including treatment schedules. In the event of violations identified, the Regional Water Board undertakes appropriate enforcement actions.
Staff is offering compliance inspections. These inspections offer education about the Order and compliance assistance to landowners already enrolled or anticipating enrollment under the Order. To request an inspection, please contact one of our staff people listed at the bottom of the page.
The North Coast region participates in ongoing interagency inspections in coordination with the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) Office of Enforcement, State Water Board Division of Water Rights, and the California Department of Fish and Wildlife. The inspections are generally prioritized to focus on subwatershed areas where there are identified cumulative effects and a concentration of probable operations conducting cannabis cultivation and associated activities.
It is essential for the North Coast Region to enforce water quality laws, the Basin Plan, requirements, permits, and orders so as to attain healthy watersheds, effective regulation, and strong partnerships. Consistent and effective enforcement, which includes compliance assistance, is necessary to deter practices that could lead to violations; to promote justice; to reduce the incentive for an unfair economic advantage of noncompliance; to safeguard the public trust; and to protect and restore beneficial uses of water.
If you are engaged in cultivating marijuana on private land, whether as owner, lessee, or operator, enrolling in the Regional Water Board's Order and being able to demonstrate a valid water right to the Division of Water Rights may be required. If you do not obtain the appropriate permits, you may be subject to administrative and/or judicial civil enforcement. If you cause, or threaten to cause, harm to water quality, you may face civil liabilities and be required to clean up the property at your own expense. The unauthorized diversion or storage of water is subject to further and separate civil liabilities and compliance orders by the Division of Water Rights.
Consistent with the enforcement policy, the Water Boards use a progressive enforcement approach that utilizes limited enforcement resources efficiently and effectively. Progressive enforcement is a general concept whereby enforcement actions can range from informal actions to very formal, depending on the extent of violations, history of non-compliance and other factors. An informal enforcement action can be a simple verbal contact by staff that brings a violation to a landowners' attention and provides the opportunity for compliance. If the landowner's response is unsatisfactory, staff may escalate their enforcement. Based on the landowner's first response, staff may opt to take no action, follow up with site visit(s) to confirm compliance and/or provide technical assistance, or continue with more enforcement. For serious violations, staff may send a Notice of Violation and request a written response.
At this stage, a case may be evaluated for Administrative Civil Liability (i.e., financial penalties) or other formal enforcement measure. Formal enforcement actions are generally reserved for the most egregious of violations. Formal enforcement actions could include Notice to Comply (for example with Order R1-2015-0023 requirements); required submission of technical reports; issuance of Cleanup and Abatement Orders if you cause, or threaten to cause, harm to water quality; Time Schedule Orders; Cease and Desist Orders; Modification or rescission of the Order requirements; and Administrative Civil Liabilities.
The North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board takes complaints, conducts complaint inspections, and can conduct follow-up enforcement. Individuals filing a complaint have the option to remain anonymous. To file a complaint, you may do so on line at:
or contact Regional Water Board staff Stormer Feiler at (707) 543-7128 and Stormer.Feiler@waterboards.ca.gov.
The State Water Board is developing and implementing new regulatory programs to address potential water quality and quantity issues related to cannabis cultivation and to meet the directives of Senate Bill (SB) 837 (Statutes 2016, Chapter 32, Committee on Budget and Fiscal Review) and the Medical Cannabis Regulation and Safety Act.
- More information on the cannabis cultivation regulatory programs under development by the State Water Board
- Cannabis Cultivation Water Rights Home Page
- Subscribe to the State Water Board Cannabis Cultivators email subscription list
Education and Outreach are critical components to water quality protection efforts in the North Coast.
Regional Water Board Education and Outreach
The Regional Water Board's recent outreach and education efforts include:
- Distributing brochures to individuals, supply stores, partner agencies, and interested third party entities with general information including Water Board staff contact information and the need for a permit, the potential for water quality impacts from cannabis cultivation and related activities, and enforcement in relation to discharges of waste and improper water diversions.
- Attending and speaking at public outreach events relating to cannabis cultivation discharges;
- Providing general information via presentations and informational meetings to specific interest groups, including environmental groups, governments, grower associations and third party entities; and
- Being interviewed on public radio and in print media.
Non-Profit Education and Outreach
The following non-profit entities* provide resources, education and outreach in the North Coast region for various land management practices relevant to cannabis cultivation operations or other operations with similar environmental effects:
- Eel River Recovery Project (ERRP)
Specializes in watershed monitoring, education, and improvement of the Eel River. Offers technical assistance in pollution prevention and water conservation and is monitoring conditions in the Eel River watershed. Implemented an Eel River Monitoring and Water Quality Awareness Pilot Project and Water Temperature Analyses with grant funding from the State Water Resources Control Board.
- Mendocino Resource Conservation District (MRCD)
Specializes in sediment control, water pollution prevention, restoration, and grant assistance in Mendocino County. Recently developed a BMP guidance document in English and Spanish for cannabis cultivators with funding from the Water Boards.
- Salmonid Restoration Federation (SRF)
Their water rights education program offers water rights and permitting, grant assistance. Currently is conducting water conservation and education in the Redwood Creek watershed of the South Fork Eel with funding from the Water Boards.
- California Trout (CalTrout)
Currently is conducting instream flow study in Sproul Creek watershed of the South Fork Eel to inform strategies to address critical low summer stream flow conditions impairing juvenile salmon and steelhead rearing habitat, with funding from the Water Boards.
- Trout Unlimited
Promotes water conservation, seasonal storage, and sediment reduction to improve streamflows and habitat for fish. Pursues grant funding opportunities in partnership with landowners and other groups for water storage, flow enhancement, and habitat improvement projects.
- Environmental Information and Protection Center (EPIC)
EPIC and Mad River Alliance are partnering with Humboldt Green, California Growers Association and the Humboldt Bay Municipal Water District to produce a series Cannabis Farmers Compliance Workshops and a 2016 Compliance Handbook. The purpose of these workshops is to help educate people about: a suite of new laws and regulations for commercial medical cannabis agriculture, the steps necessary to have farms comply with the new laws, and how to protect the health of our forests, water, and quality of life here on the North Coast.
*The above list is by no means exhaustive or inclusive. Please check back on this web page throughout 2015 and 2016 for updates.
- Hauling Water?
- Frequently Asked Questions
- Fact Sheet: North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board Cannabis Cultivation Waste Discharge Regulatory Program
- Cannabis Cultivation in California. If you grow, you need to know!
- Cultivo de Marihuana en California (Espanol)
- Construction Contractors' Flyer
- Pest Management Practices for Marijuana Growers
- Pesticide Use on Marijuana
- El Cultivo de Mariguana en el Norte de California Amenaza la Calidad del Agua y la Vida Silvestre Marijuana Cultivation Fact Sheet (Espanol)
- Know your Water Rights
- California Department of Fish and Game Streambed Alteration Agreements:
- Division of Water Rights:
- Construction General Permit:
- HUC-12 subwatershed online interactive map via EcoAtlas
http://www.ecoatlas.org/regions/ecoregion/klamath-north-coast (Go to "Overlays" tab to select "Hydrologic Regions (HUC12)," go to the "Basemap" tab to select the desired basemap, and zoom to your site to identify the 12-digit HUC code for your subwatershed)
Other Available Resources
- Cannabis Farmer's Workshop Series 2016 Compliance Handbook
- Watershed Best Management Practices for Cannabis Growers and other Rural Gardeners
- Video Regional Water Board staff presentation to the California Growers Association January 2016 Meeting
- Strategy: Regulation and Enforcement of Unauthorized Diversions; Discharges of Waste to Surface and Groundwater Caused by Marijuana Cultivation
- Response to Written Comments In Consideration of Waiver of Waste Discharge Requirements and General Water Quality Certification for Discharges of Waste Resulting from Cannabis Cultivation and Associated Activities or Operations with Similar Environmental Effects in the North Coast Region
- Handbook for Forest, Ranch, and Rural Roads. A guide for planning, designing, constructing, reconstructing, upgrading, maintaining and closing wildland roads
- El Libro Verde Manual de Caminos Forestales y Rurales. Una guia para planificar, construir, reconstruir, mejorar, mantener y cerar caminos forestales (espanol)
- Ponds- Planning, Design, Construction
- Natural Resource Conservation Service Conservation Practice Standard- Pond Code 378
Below are some Frequently Asked Questions and Answers:
Q: What is my site WDID?
A: This is a number that we will assign to you upon receipt of your application, so upon initial enrollment, you can leave this blank. A WDID number does not necessarily reflect a complete enrollment.
Q: How do I find my HUC12?
A: You can find your HUC12 by using the HUC-12 subwatershed online interactive map via EcoAtlas http://www.ecoatlas.org/regions/ecoregion/klamath-north-coast (Go to "Overlays" tab to select "Hydrologic Regions (HUC12)," go to the "Basemap" tab to select the desired basemap, and zoom to your site to identify the 12-digit HUC code for your subwatershed)
Q: How can I verify if my enrollment is complete?
A: You can check the Facilities-At-A-Glance Report to see if your enrollment is “active”: https://ciwqs.waterboards.ca.gov/ciwqs/readOnly/CiwqsReportServlet?reportName=facilityAtAGlance&inCommand=reset
Please subscribe to the email listserv to stay informed on the latest North Coast Cannabis Cultivation Waste Discharge Regulatory Program developments:
If you have questions about the Cannabis Cultivation Waste Discharge Regulatory Program, please contact :