Cannabis Cultivation Water Rights
Welcome to the Water Boards Cannabis Cultivation Program Water Rights webpage. This page provides an explanation of the different types of water rights available to cannabis cultivators that require approval from the State Water Board. Water rights can be complicated, so you may find a call or email to the Division of Water Rights Cannabis Registration Unit to be helpful.
Cannabis cultivators that plan to divert surface water need a water right to irrigate cannabis. The Cannabis Policy requires cannabis cultivators to forbear (or cease) from diverting surface water during the dry season, which starts April 1 and ends October 31 of each calendar year. This means that water must be diverted during the wet season and stored for use during the dry season. Water is required to be stored offstream.
Example of offstream storage
3,500-gallon plastic tanks
The Cannabis SIUR is a streamlined option to obtain a small appropriative water right (less than 6.6 acre-feet per year) to divert and store surface water to irrigate commercial cannabis crops. There is a $750 initial registration fee that is required to obtain your registration. Please refer to the fee schedule for registration renewal information.
The State Water Board developed general terms and conditions for the statewide Cannabis SIUR to address off-stream storage needs for cannabis cultivation. The Cannabis SIUR requires compliance with the Cannabis Cultivation Policy and additional general terms and conditions.
On July 14, 2020, the Deputy Director for the Division of Water Rights approved a Resolution Revising General Conditions to be Applied to Small Irrigation Use Registrations for Cannabis Cultivation that established updated general conditions for the Cannabis Small Irrigation Use Registration.
More detailed information about other water rights programs can be found below.
There are currently two other water right registration programs that may be applicable to cannabis cultivators.
North Coast Instream Flow Policy Small Irrigation Use Registration
The North Coast Instream Flow Policy SIUR is currently available for irrigation of commercial agricultural crops 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).
Small Domestic Use Registration
Small Domestic Use Registration water rights are available for domestic use of water in a home or dwelling, and other related incidental uses. Cannabis Cultivators that have both a personal residence and a cannabis crop on their land may require both a Cannabis SIUR as well as a Small Domestic Use Registration. Small Domestic Use Registrations are not applicable to commercial cannabis irrigation.
Please visit the Registrations webpage for more detailed information about these programs.
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 Policy allows cultivators to request an exemption from certain flow requirements if the spring being used for cannabis cultivation meets certain conditions. Please visit the fully contained springs webpage for more information.
To obtain a California Department of Food and Agriculture Cannabis Cultivation (CalCannabis) License, you must provide documentation of your water supply source(s) with your cultivation license application. This could include a Cannabis SIUR Registration Certificate or proof of an existing appropriative water right. Certain water diversion types require completion and submittal of special forms to the Water Boards.
- 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 26060 must be on file with the Division of Water Rights .
- 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 26060 must be on file with the Division of Water Rights. 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.
- 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 26060 must be on file with the Division of Water Rights. 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.
If you are unsure of your water source category, or need further assistance, please contact the Cannabis Registration Unit.
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