Cannabis Cultivation Program Logo

Fully Contained Springs Exemption Process

This page provides information regarding the Fully Contained Springs Exemption outlined in the Cannabis Cultivation Policy – Principles and Guidelines for Cannabis Cultivation (Cannabis Cultivation Policy). The Cannabis Cultivation Policy allows cannabis cultivators to request an exemption from the need for a Cannabis SIUR if the spring used for cannabis cultivation activities meets the specific requirements outlined in the Cannabis Cultivation Policy.

Fully Contained Springs

Fully contained springs do not flow off a person’s property in the absence of diversion, including during 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 requirements can be found in the Minimum Requirements to be Included in a Fully Contained Spring Exemption Report.

The determination of whether a spring is fully contained, and whether a cultivator may be exempt from certain flow conditions, is the responsibility of the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board). The information below describes: 1) the process to apply for a fully contained spring exemption; and 2) the information that is to be submitted in support of the exemption.

Requesting a Fully Contained Spring Exemption

Cannabis cultivators requesting an exemption must request a Cannabis Small Irrigation Use Registration (Cannabis SIUR) and include supporting evidence regarding the fully contained spring. All requests for fully contained spring exemptions must be submitted through the State Water Board’s online Cannabis Cultivation Program Application Portal (Portal). Division of Water Rights staff will evaluate the spring data provided in the Portal application and will assign one of three possible outcomes:

  1. The claim is accepted without further action from the applicant. The spring is considered fully contained and no SIUR will be issued.
  2. The claim is rejected for falling within a riparian buffer for a watercourse or the potential for runoff from the spring to flow beyond the bounds of the parcel. There is no option to submit a report. The spring cannot be considered fully contained and an SIUR will be issued. The applicant may divert under the SIUR conditions.
  3. The claim is conditionally rejected. The spring is not considered fully contained and an SIUR will be issued. The applicant may divert under the SIUR conditions. The applicant may challenge this decision by hiring a Qualified Professional to write a Fully Contained Spring report that meets specific conditions outlined below.

Only in case 3 is a Qualified Professional needed to write a report. Reports submitted under Cases 1 or 2 will not be considered. The report must include supporting evidence prepared by a Qualified Professional and must include information provided in the Minimum Requirements to be Included in a Fully Contained Spring Exemption Report (Updated November 25, 2019) to be considered.

Submittal of Exempt Springs Request through Portal.

  • The Portal will guide you through questions related to your cultivation site and source(s) of water. You will need to complete the Cannabis SIUR application, including all questions related to your water source(s), and submit the Cannabis SIUR filing fee.
  • After you complete your Cannabis SIUR application, the State Water Board will email you a Notice of Receipt for the Cannabis SIUR. The Cannabis SIUR Notice of Receipt will include confirmation that the State Water Board has received your fully contained spring exemption request and will provide information on how to submit fee payments. (Note you will obtain a separate Notice of Receipt for coverage under the Cannabis General Order.)
  • Once you have received the Cannabis SIUR, you may divert from the spring. The diversion must comply with specific requirements for diversion from fully contained springs, which can  be found in the Cannabis Cultivation Policy – Narrative Flow  Requirements.
  • You may submit the Cannabis SIUR with your California Department of Food and Agriculture’s CalCannabis License Application as verification of your water source(s) and fully contained spring claim.

The Portal is available at: https://public2.waterboards.ca.gov/mt/sites/site?siteName=CGO

Approval or Denial of Fully Contained Spring Requests. State Water Board staff may request additional information or conduct a site visit to assess the request. Following review of the request and any additional information, the State Water Board will approve, deny, or conditionally deny the fully contained spring exemption request. The State Water Board will notify the cannabis cultivator of the approval or denial of the request.

  • If approved, the cannabis cultivator is still subject to all applicable requirements of the Cannabis Cultivation Policy. They will not be issued an SIUR.
  • If the fully contained spring request is denied, the cannabis cultivator will be issued a Cannabis SIUR with a water right priority date of the initial Cannabis SIUR submittal date.
  • If the fully contained spring request is conditionally denied, the cannabis cultivator may choose to hire a qualified professional to prepare and submit a Fully Contained Spring Report to be evaluated by State Water Board staff.

Qualified Professionals*

  • California-Licensed Professional Geologists (including Certified Hydrogeologists and Certified Engineering Geologists)
  • American Institute of Hydrology- Professional Hydrologist
  • California-Licensed Professional Civil Engineer

Submittals received after November 25, 2019, shall include the Certification Statement(s) described in the List of Minimum Information to be submitted for Fully Contained Spring (Updated November 25, 2019)

*If a professional classification is not listed above, an individual may request that a new professional classification be approved by the Deputy Director for Water Rights (Deputy Director) The request and supporting evidence, should be submitted by email to: DWR-CannabisReg@waterboards.ca.gov.

Individuals who do not have one of the professional classifications as described above should not prepare fully contained spring exemption reports.

1) Summary Determination

The report must include a summary of the qualified professional’s determination, using the information listed below as evidence to support the conclusion that the spring meets the fully contained spring requirements listed in Attachment A, Section 3 of the Cannabis Cultivation Policy. Specifically, the report must clearly state that in the author’s professional opinion the spring does not have the potential to flow off the property (parcel boundary) or into a channel that flows off the property by surface or subsurface means in the absence of diversion. Unsupported determinations will not be approved.

2) Site Description

The report must include a detailed description and photographs of the spring.

  • Photographs must be captioned and identify what is shown, with labels added as needed. At a minimum, the report must include photographs of all of the following, to the extent physically feasible: detailed image of spring orifice; diversion works; diversion overflow; image of spring orifice from a reasonable distance both up and down gradient for context; overview of spring orifice looking towards nearest downgradient feature, such as a property line, surface water channel, or water body. The report must include any additional photographs that provide context for the spring, such as landscape position/setting, and to the extent possible, photographs of all features discussed in the text of the report. The report must include the location and direction/perspective of each photograph on a site figure or map and reference the photograph exhibit number used in the report.
  • The site description must include a labeled schematic, map, or drawing of the entire diversion system, including: spring orifice, point of diversion, conveyance (e.g. piping, ditch), storage (e.g. pond, reservoir, tanks, bladders), overflow, water meters, place(s) of use, point(s) of rediversion (e.g. sump, transfer pump). The schematic must clearly depict the diversion system such that it can be understood in the context of the report, using reference photographs, maps, or sections of the report, as needed. 
  • The site description must include information regarding whether the spring is currently in use. Further, the report must indicate whether there has been any development of the spring and, if so, what specific activities. 

The report’s site description must include:

  • A topographic map with the location of parcel boundaries and spring(s) (using USGS 7.5-minute map series or a more detailed site-specific map prepared by a licensed Land Surveyor).
  • The location of the spring(s) used to provide water for cannabis cultivation (shown on a map and with latitude and longitude using decimal degrees).
  • The date that diversion of water from the spring commenced for any beneficial uses (e.g. domestic, irrigation, fire protection, etc.).
  • The current volume of water diverted per month for all beneficial uses, in gallons.
  • The planned volume of water diverted per month for cannabis cultivation, in gallons.
  • Average percent of spring flow diverted each month.
  • Representative average monthly (by water year) precipitation for the site.

3) Site Inspection

The report must describe a site inspection conducted by the qualified professional. The report must provide:

  • The date or dates of the site inspection.
  • Current and previous water year precipitation for the site at the time of inspection, available here: http://www.prism.oregonstate.edu/explorer/.
  • The measured spring output at the time of inspection and the method used to measure spring output.
  • The estimated maximum spring output (including method of estimation and date(s) flow estimate was conducted).
  • A list of the months spring is flowing during a dry, average, and wet water year.
  • The surface flow path mapped, and the distance along the surface flow path, from the spring to the nearest surface water channel or water body.
  • The surface flow path mapped, and distance along the surface flow path, from the spring to the nearest parcel boundary.
  • The estimated distance along the subsurface flow path from the spring to the nearest surface water channel or water body. Indicate and label the subsurface flow path on the map.
  • The estimated distance along the subsurface flow path from the spring to the nearest parcel boundary. Indicate and label the subsurface flow path on the map.

4) Geological and Hydrogeological Conditions of the Site

The report must include a description of the geological and hydrogeological conditions of the site, with the minimum elements below:

  • A site geologic map that identifies the spring location on the best available (highest resolution and most current) geologic map.  In some cases the Preliminary Geologic Maps available here: https://www.conservation.ca.gov/cgs/maps-data/rgm/preliminary  may represent the best available information.
  • A site soils map that shows, at a minimum, Hydrologic Soils Group and Saturated Hydraulic Conductivity available here: https://websoilsurvey.sc.egov.usda.gov/App/HomePage.htm 
  • Well completion reports for wells within one mile of the spring. Information may be found here: https://water.ca.gov/Programs/Groundwater-Management/Wells.
  • Depth to water table from nearby wells within one mile, up to five wells total, if available.
  • A description of the fate of the water after emerging from the spring, and re-entering the ground, in the context of the fully contained spring requirements. Use the geologic map, soils map, local well logs, or other information submitted in this report to support your conclusion.

5) Credentials

The report must provide the credentials of the Qualified Professional (including license number and expiration date, as applicable).  Additionally, the report must list the references used to prepare the report.

6) Certification Statements

All reports submitted by Qualified Professionals shall include the following statement: I have reviewed and understand Attachment A, Section 3 of the Cannabis Cultivation Policy, as well as the State Water Resources Control Board’s Fully Contained Springs website. I am personally responsible for the content, analysis, and conclusions contained within this report. I understand that willful misrepresentation, negligent, or unprofessional conduct in the preparation of this report will be reported to the appropriate licensing body. I certify under penalty of perjury under the laws of the State of California that the foregoing is true and correct.
Additionally, reports submitted by Licensed Civil Engineers or Professional Hydrologists shall include one of the following statements:

  • As a Civil Engineer, I hereby certify that I have at least three years of experience directly relevant to the investigation of springs and related features as described in Attachment A, Section 3, Requirement 3 of the Cannabis Policy.
  • As a Professional Hydrologist, I hereby certify that I have at least three years of experience directly relevant to the investigation of springs and related features as described in Attachment A, Section 3, Requirement 3 of the Cannabis Policy. 

  Subscribe to our Email Lists

Questions

Questions regarding the fully contained spring exemption requests can be directed to Cannabis Registration staff at: