California Priority Watersheds

CA Priority Watershed Tool map

The State Water Resource Control Board (State Water Board) in coordination with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (DFW) have identified "Cannabis Priority Watersheds" throughout the state that are of special environmental concern and are at increased risk of environmental impacts due to cannabis cultivation activities. The State Water Board and DFW intend to increase both permitting outreach and enforcement efforts in Cannabis Priority Watersheds. Our main goals in establishing Cannabis Priority Watersheds and developing a public online mapping tool for those watersheds are to:

  • Improve voluntary regulatory compliance with the State Water Board’s Cannabis Policy and CDFW’s Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreement (LSAA) Program;
  • Increase permitting enrollment for the State Water Board’s water rights and water quality permits, and DFW’s LSAA Program;
  • Identify targeted watersheds for increased public outreach and education about impacts of cannabis cultivation and areas of special environmental concern;
  • Protect public trust resources and habitat, as well as senior water right holders.

What is a Cannabis Priority Watershed?

All Cannabis Priority Watersheds contain a high concentration of cannabis cultivation; non-compliant cannabis cultivation in these high-value areas has the potential to cause severe environmental impacts. A "Cannabis Priority Watershed" may also meet some or all of the following criteria:

  • Contains or supports critical habitat for terrestrial or aquatic species.  Critical habitat is a term defined and used in the US and California Endangered Species Acts, and refers to specific geographic areas that contain features essential to the conservation of an endangered or threatened species and that may require special management and protection. Critical habitat may also include areas that are not currently occupied by the species but will be needed for its recovery;
  • Contains water courses with low flow conditions where water levels recede or are at risk of receding into the “danger zone” for aquatic life. These are survival-level flows at which aquatic habitat and species will be harmed;
  • Contains a critical water supply, where excessive water usage or diversions present unreasonable stress or pose a significant threat to the long-term and sustainable water use;
  • Has complaints that allege cannabis cultivation that contributes to or causes natural resources violations, or that affects senior water right holders;
  • Is part of past or ongoing restoration efforts;
  • Is listed under Clean Water Act Section 303(d) as an impaired waterbody;
  • Contains surface water body that is listed as a fully appropriated stream; and
  • Contains a waterbody is designated as a “Wild and Scenic River” pursuant to the California Public Resources Code section 5093.

Why isn’t my watershed listed as a "Cannabis Priority Watershed"?

While your watershed may not currently be identified on the map, the State Water Board and DFW will continuously review our watershed priorities, cannabis cultivation activities, and update the list of Cannabis Priority Watersheds as needed.

Why were there inspections and/or outreach efforts within my watershed when it was not listed as a Cannabis Priority Watershed?

Cannabis related inspections and outreach efforts are not solely limited to the Cannabis Priority Watersheds. Outreach efforts and inspections can happen throughout the State as a response to local requests, education needs, complaints, and other resource protection goals.

How do I file an environmental complaint?

You can file an environmental complaint here:
https://calepacomplaints.secure.force.com/complaints/
OR
https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/enforcement/caltip

Where can I find more information about the Cannabis Policy, Cannabis SIUR Program, Cannabis Cultivation General Order and DFW’s Lake and Streambed Alteration Agreement?

You can find more information related to the State Water Boards Cannabis Cultivation Programs here:
https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/cannabis
AND
DFW’s cannabis cultivation permitting and enforcement information can be found here:
https://www.wildlife.ca.gov/Conservation/Cannabis

Where can I file for a cannabis water right or cannabis water quality permit?

You can enroll through the State Water Board’s Cannabis Cultivation Program Application Portal here:
https://public2.waterboards.ca.gov/cgo