Water Rights Decisions, Orders and Judgments

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The State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) has designated many of its decisions and orders as precedential. The State Water Board has designated as precedent only those decisions and orders that have been adopted by the State Water Board itself, not those adopted by staff or an individual Board member pursuant to delegated authority. All decisions and orders adopted by the State Water Board itself are precedential, except decisions or orders that state that they are not precedential and decisions and orders that are superseded by later enacted statutes, judicial opinions, or actions of the State Water Board. General orders, including general waste discharge requirements, and resolutions are not precedential. (See State Water Board Order WR 96-1 (Lagunitas Creek), footnote 11 and State Water Board Order WQ 2023-0081 (Central Coast Irrigated Agriculture), footnote 89.)

Government Code section 11425.60, subdivision (b), authorizes the State Water Board to make law or establish generally applicable policy determinations in the decisions and orders that it designates as precedential. The designation of State Water Board decisions and orders as precedential promotes greater consistency and predictability for the Water Boards' regulatory programs. The State Water Board may refine, reformulate, or even reverse its precedents on a case-by-case basis in light of new insights or changed circumstances, so long as it confronts inconsistent precedent and explains the reason for change. (See State Water Board Order WR 2009-0061 (Camp Pendleton) at pp. 9-10, 17-18.) The Regional Water Boards must follow all State Water Board precedential decisions and orders applicable to the facts of a proceeding before the Regional Water Board.

The State Water Board indexes its precedential decisions and orders through separate links for water right decisions, water right orders, drinking water orders, and water quality orders at https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/board_decisions/adopted_orders/.