State Board - Cannabis Cultivation Water Rights
On June 27, 2016, Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed Senate Bill (SB) 837, which requires 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. Principles and guidelines will be incorporated into licenses issued by the California Department of Food and Agriculture under its CalCannabis Cultivation Licensing, and water right registrations will be issued under the State Water Board's Small Irrigation Use Registration Program, once available.
UPDATE: On November 2, 2017, the State Water Board submitted the Cannabis Policy to the Office of Administrative Law (OAL) for review and approval. OAL approved Cannabis Policy on December 18, 2017, making the Cannabis Policy effective as of that date. Information on the development of the Cannabis Policy is available below. The final Cannabis Policy can be found here.
UPDATE: The Cannabis General Order and Small Irrigation Use Registration Portal is now live and accepting applications. Certificates will be issued beginning December 19, 2017.
Cannabis Policy - Principles and Guidelines (Requirements) for Cannabis Cultivation
On October 17, 2017, the State Water Board adopted the Cannabis Cultivation Policy – Principles and Guidelines for Cannabis Cultivation (Cannabis Policy), under Resolution No. 2017-0063. Additional documents related to the State Water Board’s adoption of the Cannabis Policy are provided below:
- Final Cannabis Policy
- Final Cannabis Policy Staff Report
- Direct Cost Analysis for Proposed Cannabis Policy
- Response to 2017 Peer Review Comments on Draft Cannabis Cultivation Policy – Principles and Guidelines for Cannabis Cultivation
- Responses to Comments on Draft Final Cannabis Policy, Draft Final Cannabis Policy Staff Report, and Draft Final Cannabis General Order
- The Draft Final Cannabis Cultivation Policy, Draft Final Cannabis Policy Staff Report, agenda item, and change sheets are available on the October 17, 2017 Board agenda under Item 6.
The Cannabis Policy establishes minimum instream flows, forbearance periods, off-stream storage requirements, riparian buffers, maximum diversion rates, irrigation conservation measures, and other best management practices to protect water quality. Minimum instream flows and the forbearance periods help maintain natural flow variability and minimize the effects of cannabis cultivation on fisheries and wildlife by protecting water quantity during critical life stages. The riparian buffers, best management practices, and other operational guidelines help maintain healthy riparian corridors and minimize the water quality impacts resulting from cannabis cultivation.
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.
At this time the focus is on interim principles and guidelines. The State Water Board may update the interim principles and guidelines established in the Cannabis Policy as reasonably necessary, pending development of long-term principles and guidelines. The draft Cannabis Policy and draft Cannabis Policy Staff Report were released for public comment on July 7 2017.
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 here.
- Detailed information on how to request a fully contained spring exemption is available here.
Water Rights Registration Programs
The State Water Board currently has two water right registration programs that provide appropriative water rights for smaller diversions (less than 20 acre-feet per year) of water associated with irrigation or domestic use. The State Water Board also has a Livestock Stockpond Use Registration Program, which does not relate to the use of water for cannabis cultivation. These two registration programs that relate to domestic and irrigation use are outlined further below.
Small Irrigation Use Registration Program
The Small Irrigation Use Registration Program is currently in a limited area of the North Coast that includes Marin County, Sonoma County, and portions of Napa, Mendocino, and Humboldt counties (map of area). To address off-stream storage needs for cannabis cultivation in other parts of the state the State Water Board is developing general terms and conditions for the Small Irrigation Use Registration Program that can be applied statewide. It is anticipated that the general terms and conditions will incorporate the Principles and Guidelines.
Small Irrigation Use - Cannabis Cultivation
This program will implement the conditions set forth in the Principles and Guidelines for Cannabis Cultivation. The State Water Board has developed an online portal for registrants to submit their filings, make payments, and receive registration certificates. The portal is now live and Small Irrigation Use Registration certificates will begin being issued on December 19, 2017. Enter the portal here.
Small Domestic Registration Program (not for commercial cannabis cultivation)
The existing Small Domestic Use Registration Program is not applicable to commercial cannabis irrigation and its applicability to cannabis cultivation for personal use is determined on a case-by-case basis. Cannabis cultivators will be able to enroll under the Cannabis General Order and obtain water rights under the Cannabis Small Irrigation Use Registration (SIUR) Program, if needed, using the online Cannabis General Order and SIUR Application Portal. The Cannabis SIUR Program is a streamlined option to obtain an appropriative water right to divert surface water to irrigate commercial cannabis crops.
- Presentation to State Water Board for Adoption of Cannabis Policy (Item 6) and Cannabis General Order (Item 7) – October 17, 2017 (Sacramento)
- Staff Informational Workshop on Draft Cannabis Policy - July 20, 2017 (Eureka) and July 27, 2017 (Sacramento)
- State Water Board Workshop on Draft Cannabis Policy – August 2, 2017 (Sacramento)
- Water Boards Response to Notice of Preparation by the Department of Food and Agriculture, September 30, 2016
- Water Rights and Commercial Cannabis Cultivation Outreach Meetings - August 31-October 4, 2016
- Calaveras County Water District Workshop - September 28, 2016 (Presentation same as Siskiyou County Meeting)
- Siskiyou County Board of Supervisors Meeting - October 4, 2016
- North Coast Regional Water Quality Control Board Meeting - October 20, 2016
- Water Rights Information Meetings - August 31-October 4, 2016
To obtain a California Department of Food and Agriculture Cannabis Cultivation (CalCannabis) License, you must provide documentation of your water supply source with your cultivation license application. Certain water diversion types require completion and submittal of special forms to the State Water Resource Control Board (State Water Board). Some water right types, including Small Irrigation Use Registrations and existing Water Right Permits and Licenses do not require additional documentation.
In accordance with the Business and Professions Code Section 26060.1 (the enactment of Senate Bill 94 changed the section from 19332.2 to 26060.1, we decided to keep the original name of the forms since they are already in use.) CalCannabis requires cultivators to provide documentation to the State Water Board - Division of Water Rights:
Governor Edmund G. Brown Jr. signed AB 133 on September 18, 2017 which, in part, extends the deadlines to submit forms to the State Water Board to comply with CalCannabis’ water source identification requirements for cannabis cultivation licensing.
Updated deadlines does not introduce new requirements. You do not need to re-file the forms listed below if you have already submitted documentation of your water source to the State Water Board.
Please review the following to determine if the new deadlines affect you. The deadlines are specific to cultivators that wish to submit their CalCannabis cultivation license application before January 1, 2019.
If you currently have a Small Irrigation Use Registration (SIUR), Permit, License, or plan on filing for a SIUR, the statutory deadlines below do not apply to you, but you will need to include appropriate documentation of your water right in your CalCannabis application.
If water is already being diverted under a riparian water right claim, an Initial Statement of Diversion and Use must be on file with the Division of Water Rights on or before October 31, 2017. Form is available at:
A pending application to appropriate water must be on file on or before October 31, 2017. Form is available at:
If you plan to be divert and use water under a riparian right and no diversion has occurred in any calendar year between January 1, 2010 and January 1, 2017 then Form 19332.2 (b)(5) must be on file on or before October 31, 2017. Form is available at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/registrations/docs/form_b5.pdf
IIf your water diversion is from a spring that does NOT flow off the property on which it is located, and the aggregate diversions do not exceed 25 acre-feet in any year, then Form 19332.2 (b)(4) must be on file on or before January 1, 2019. Form is available at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/registrations/docs/form_b4.pdf
If your source is a groundwater well in Los Angeles, Riverside, San Bernardino or Ventura Counties that extracts more than 25 acre-feet in a year and a notice is on file with the State Water Board for the recordation of groundwater extractions and diversion then Form 19332.2 (b)(4) must be on file on or before January 1, 2019. Form is available at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/registrations/docs/form_b4.pdf
If your diversion is regulated by a Watermaster appointed by the Department of Water Resources and included in annual reports filed with a court or the State Water Board by a Watermaster, then Form 19332.2 (b)(4) must be on file on or before January 1, 2019. The annual reports must identify the persons who divert water and describe the general purposes and the place, the use, and the quantity of water that has been diverted from each source. Form is available at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/registrations/docs/form_b4.pdf
If your diversion is included in annual reports filed with the court or State Water Board by a Watermaster appointed by a court or filed pursuant to statute to administer a final judgment determining rights to water, then. Form 19332.2 (b)(4) must be on file on or before January 1, 2019. The reports must identify the persons who have diverted water and give the general place of use and the quantity that has been diverted from each source. Form is available at: http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/registrations/docs/form_b4.pdf
The State Water Board is developing an online portal for cannabis cultivators to submit their Small Irrigation Use Registration (SIUR) filings, make payments, and obtain water right registration certificates. The online portal will be available in late 2017. SIURs are a faster alternative to applying for and obtaining a traditional water right permit. SIURs will allow cannabis cultivators to store water off stream in tanks or ponds; water storage is not permissible under riparian water right claims.
If you are unsure of your water source category, or need further assistance, please visit our Water Rights - Cannabis webpage or contact the Cannabis Registration Unit at 916-319-9427.
Subscribe to our Email Lists
- Subscribe to our Cannabis Cultivators email subscription list to receive email updates, notices, and opportunities to comment. The email subscription list appears in multiple sections (i.e., Water Rights, Water Quality, etc.).
You only need to sign up once as all sections subscribe to the same list.