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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 certain flow requirements 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 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 Excerpt of the Narrative Flow Requirements.

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 obtain 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). The supporting evidence must be prepared by a Qualified Professional and include information provided in the List of Minimum Information to be submitted for Fully Contained Spring.

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 all questions related to your water source(s), complete the Cannabis SIUR, and submit your fully contained spring report (report) in the Portal.
  • After you complete your Cannabis SIUR and submit the report, 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 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:

Note: The Portal provides cultivators with a one-stop permitting shop, where cultivators use the same Portal to obtain: (1) coverage under the Cannabis General Order (waste discharge requirements/waiver); and (2) a Cannabis SIUR (water right).

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 report and any additional information, the State Water Board Deputy Director of Water Rights (Deputy Director) will approve or 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. Cannabis cultivators with an approved fully contained spring exemption must revoke their Cannabis SIUR in order to avoid future annual fees.
  • The Deputy Director may choose to conditionally approve the request, granting a temporary exemption until staff is able to conduct a site inspection and/or evaluate the spring’s condition during wet years.
  • 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 fully contained springs submittal.
  • Cannabis cultivators that submit false or misrepresentative information and cultivators that do not pay the required fee may be subject to enforcement.

Qualified Professionals*

  • California-Licensed Professional Geologists (including Certified Hydrogeologists and Certified Engineering Geologists)

On December 17, 2019, the Deputy Director for Water Rights signed a memo approving two additional professional classifications:

  • American Institute of Hydrology – Professional Hydrologist
  • California-Licensed Professional Civil Engineer

As part of the fully contained spring exemption request, all Qualified Professionals must provide a self-certification that states they 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.

*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) and added to the list of qualified professionals that may prepare supporting evidence for fully contained spring exemption requests (fully contained spring reports). The individual must submit evidence justifying how the professional classification qualifies individuals holding that classification to prepare fully contained spring reports.  The supporting information should, at minimum, include education, licenses, and a discussion of how routine work associated with the professional classification is comparable to work typically performed by the above-listed Qualified Professionals in relation to documenting substantial evidence to support fully contained spring reports. The request and supporting evidence should be submitted by email to:

Individuals who do not have one of the professional classifications listed above should not prepare fully contained spring exemption reports for cannabis cultivation until the professional classification the individual holds is approved as a Qualified Professional by the Deputy Director and added to the list above.

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