Cannabis Cultivation Policy - Principles and Guidelines (Requirements) for Cannabis Cultivation

The Cannabis Cultivation Policy establishes principles and guidelines (requirements) for the diversion and use of water, land disturbances, and the activities related to cannabis cultivation to protect water quantity and quality. The requirements help to minimize the effects of cannabis cultivation on fisheries, wildlife, and water quality, maintain healthy riparian corridors, and protect springs, wetlands, and aquatic habitat.

NEW! Updates to the Cannabis Policy effective as of April 16, 2019

On February 5, 2019, the State Water Resources Control Board adopted the proposed updates to the Cannabis Policy – Principles and Guidelines for Cannabis Cultivation under Resolution No. 2019-0007. The updates were focused on requirements related to tribal buffers, indoor cultivation sites, onstream reservoirs, and winterization requirements.

The state’s Office of Administrative Law approved the updates to the Cannabis Policy, which is now in effect as of April 16, 2019.

Fully Contained Springs
Fully contained springs do not flow off a person’s property in the absence of diversion, including wet years, or after periods of heavy rain. The Cannabis Cultivation Policy allows cultivators to request an exemption from certain flow requirements if the spring being used for cannabis cultivation meets a set of pre-determined conditions. The full text of the requirements is available.  Detailed information on how to request a fully contained spring exemption is available at the Fully Contained Springs page.

Compliance Gages
Online Cannabis Compliance Gage Mapping Tool - The Online Mapping Tool provides cannabis cultivators that divert surface water with a tool to check whether they may divert for cannabis cultivation on a given day.

Cannabis Compliance Gages Website (Cannabis Policy, Attachment A, Section 4)- Provides an overview of the Cannabis Policy’s current list of active compliance gages and the associated Tessmann Instream Flow Requirements. Please use the online mapping tool above to determine whether water is available to divert at your point of diversion.

On June 27, 2016, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed Senate Bill No. 837 (SB 837), which required the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board), in consultation with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW), to adopt interim and long-term principles and guidelines (requirements) for the diversion and use of water for cannabis cultivation in areas where cannabis cultivation may have the potential to substantially affect instream flows.

Per Water Code section 13149, the principles and guidelines:

  • Shall include measures to protect springs, wetlands, and aquatic habitats from negative impacts of cannabis cultivation;
  • May include instream flow objectives, limits on diversions, and requirements for screening of diversions and elimination of barriers to fish passage; and

May include requirements that apply to groundwater extractions.

The Cannabis Policy allows for cultivators to request approval from the Deputy Director of the Division of Water Rights (Division), to implement agreements entered into with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife and/or other cultivators in place of the instream flow Requirements in the Cannabis Policy (numeric, narrative, and forbearance) if the agreement provides watershed-wide protection of aquatic species that is comparable or greater than the Cannabis Policy’s instream flow Requirements.  Other local cooperative solutions proposed by cultivators may include but are not limited to alternative means of reducing water use to preserve the required instream flows, coordination of diversions or water sharing, and requests to use, install or operate a local gage and move the flow Requirement compliance point to that gage location.

The Deputy Director may approve submitted requests subject to such conditions, including reporting requirements, that the Deputy Director deems necessary to prevent injury to other legal users of water or the environment.  Any interested person may file an objection to the proposed agreement, proposed local cooperative solution, or decision.

If you have any questions or concerns regarding this agreement, please contact Division staff at

Cannabis Policy Development & Outreach

Cannabis Cultivation Policy – Approved by Office of Administrative Law April 16, 2019

Cannabis Cultivation Policy Staff Report

Responses to Comments on Proposed Updates to the Cannabis Policy, Cannabis Policy Staff Report, and Cannabis Cultivation General Order Addendum – April 2019

Proposed Updates to the Cannabis Policy – February 5, 2019

Responses to Comments on draft Proposed Updates to the Cannabis Cultivation Policy, draft Proposed Updates to the Cannabis Cultivation Policy Staff Report, and draft Cannabis Cultivation General Order

Notice of Opportunity for Public Comment Concerning Winterization Revisions to Proposed Updates to the Cannabis Policy (Notice)

Notice of Opportunity for Public Comment, Staff Informational Workshops, Board Workshops, and Public Hearing (Notice)

State Water Board Workshop Presentation on Proposed Updates to the Cannabis Policy

December 2017 Public Workshop

Visit the Cannabis Policy (adopted October 17, 2017) Development & Outreach page for more information on pre-adoption efforts and documents.

Subscribe to our Cannabis Cultivators email list to receive notifications and the latest updates. After subscribing, you will need to check your email host for a confirmation email to complete the subscription.

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For assistance with the Cannabis Policy, please contact us by email at:

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