Water Rights Revocation Information


One of the main goals of the Division of Water Rights (Division) is to maximize the beneficial uses of California’s water resources. If a water right owner determines that they no longer need or use their Board-issued water right, they may voluntarily request the Division revoke their water right, thereby freeing the water to be used by someone else. In rare circumstances, such as when an owner repeatedly fails to comply with the terms and conditions of their water right permit or license, the Division may statutorily revoke the water right (potentially without the owner's consent). This page provides information about how the Division processes revocations, and what water right holders can expect during the process.

  Contact Information – Voluntary Revocation Requests

Please contact the Division of Water Rights if you have any questions or comments regarding the Voluntary Water Rights Revocation process.

Division of Water Rights
Phone: (916) 341-5300
Email: dwr@waterboards.ca.gov

Revocation Request Form

If you no longer need or use a water right that you own, you may fill out and submit a Request for Revocation of Water Right form available in eletronic format.

The form, also known as a "Voluntary Revocation Request" form, must be fully completed and submitted with all required attachments via Email to: RevocationRequests@waterboards.ca.gov, or by mailing it to the following address:

P.O. Box 2000, Sacramento, CA 95812-2000
Tel: (916) 341-5300, FAX: (916) 341-5400

Frequently Asked Questions

What is a revocation?

A revocation is an action in which the State Water Board issues an order to terminate all or part of a water right license, permit, registration, or certification issued by the Board. In the case of a “partial” revocation, the revocation order may permanently reduce a water right by decreasing its quantity, season of diversion, or place of use. There are two types of revocation, differentiated by the parties that initiate them: (1) voluntary revocations, initiated at the request of the owner(s), and (2) statutory revocations, initiated by the Board where there is cause, such as failure to diligently develop a permit, voluntary non-use of a license (over a period of at least 5 years), failure to renew a registration, or repeated mis-use of any such Board-issued water right.

Who can revoke a water right?

Only the State Water Resources Control Board (Board) can revoke a water right permit, license, registration, or certification, but will generally do so only upon investigation and recommendation by Division of Water Rights staff. Revocation proceedings can be initiated by the Board or at the request of the owner(s) of the water right.

What is the difference between a “statutory” and a “voluntary” revocation?

A revocation is an action in which the State Water Board issues an order that reduces or eliminates a water right license, permit, registration, or certification issued by the Board for any of the reasons specified in California Water Code Section 1675(b), 1410(b), and 1228.4(b). It is considered a “statutory” revocation if the process is initiated by the State Water Board.  In the case of a statutory revocation, the owner of the water right proposed to be revoked is formally notified of the proposed revocation and given the opportunity to request a hearing before the Board, if they elect to contest the proposed revocation.  A revocation is considered “voluntary,” if the water right holder requests that their right be revoked.  In voluntary revocations, the water right holder waives the right to request a hearing before the Board, in advance, by submitting the revocation request form.

Does a water right revocation require a hearing before the Board?

Yes and no. The California Water Code (Water Code) states that the Board must give the water right owner(s) written notice of a proposed statutory revocation and provide the owner(s) 15 days from the receipt of such notice to request a hearing before the Board. However, when the water right holder(s) voluntarily request revocation of their water right, Division staff interprets the signed request as waiving their right to the hearing and notice requirements set forth in the Water Code, and the Board can issue a revocation order without a hearing.

I don’t need or use all the water available under my Board-issued water right, and I want to avoid the costs of complying with the 2016 measurement and reporting regulations. Can I request a partial revocation to reduce or eliminate my measurement accuracy and frequency requirements under the regulations?

Yes. If you no longer need/use some or all the water available to you under your water right, you can ask the Board to revoke the unneeded/unused portion of your water right. If your revocation request is granted, the measurement accuracy and frequency requirements for your right will be based on the resulting, reduced water right, and so may be reduced or eliminated altogether.

For example, if a reservoir owner finds that siltation has reduced the capacity of her stockpond from 12 acre-feet to 9 acre-feet, she can request a partial revocation to reduce her water storage right accordingly. If her revocation request is granted, she is not required to install or maintain a measurement device for her 9-acre-foot stockpond, since the 2016 measurement and reporting regulations only require a measurement device for reservoirs of 10-acre-feet or greater capacity.

If I have submitted a request to revoke my water right, do I still have to pay the annual fee?

Yes. You are responsible for any fees that are accrued until a revocation order is issued, with few exceptions.

Water right fees, which are usually issued in October, accrue based on ownership of a water right at the beginning of the State fiscal year beginning on July 1st and ending on June 30th of the following calendar year.  This annual fee is not prorated if you revoke your water right.  For example, if you request revocation in July and the revocation is completed in September, you will still receive a fee bill for the fiscal in October, because you are responsible for water rights fees for the entire fiscal year if you own the right on or after July 1.

One exception, however, is that the Division typically would not hold you responsible for the annual fees if (a) they accrued while your revocation request from the previous fiscal year was pending (i.e. you had filed a successful revocation request prior to July 1st), and (b) you did not divert water after they accrued (i.e. after July 1st).   So,  from the previous example, if you had submitted your complete and valid revocation request in May, rather than July, and did not divert water from July 1st until your revocation was completed in September, the Division may cancel the fees issued to you in October of that year.

The processing of annual fees requires significant lead time, because water right fee billing for the Division of Water Rights is handled by the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA).  Some water right owners whose revocation request was submitted before July 1st, but could not be completed until after CDTFA began processing the annual fees, may still receive an annual fee (for which they are not responsible) even after their water right has been revoked. To facilitate the investigation and completion of the request, please provide as much information as you can on your Request for Revocation Form and try to submit it before June.  If you feel you have been assessed an annual fee in error and can prove to the Division that you submitted a complete revocation request prior to July 1st of the fiscal year of the fee, please contact the Division at (916) 341-5300 or by email at WaterRightsFees@waterboards.ca.gov.

What should I consider before I give up my water right?

Ownership of a water right comes with annual water rights fees, measurement requirements, and reporting responsibilities, as well as potential enforcement for failure to comply with these requirements and responsibilities, all of which can be avoided by voluntarily revoking your unused water right. If you no longer use the water right, it is in the public interest to revoke it and let someone else use the water. On the other hand, if you are still using the water for beneficial purposes, you are required by law to have a valid water right, so it is wise and in the public interest for you to keep and maintain your water rights. Water rights are property rights that confer on their owner not only the right to divert water but may also increase the future value of the property with which they are associated. Furthermore, with the increasing population and water scarcity in California, new water rights permits are becoming more difficult to obtain.

How do I request to revoke my water right?

To voluntarily request that the Board to revoke your water right, you must submit a completed revocation request form that:

  1. Certifies that the water available under the right is no longer needed and that residual water demand, if any, will be satisfied by a valid alternative source;
  2. Identifies the alternate source, if any;
  3. Certifies that associated diversion or storage infrastructure, if any, has been removed or rendered incapable of diverting water;
  4. Includes the signature and contact information of every owner of the water right;
  5. Describes what characteristics of the water right (such as diversion quantity, season of diversion, points of diversion, etc.) you want to reduce and the amount by which you want them reduced.

Can I reduce my water right, rather than fully revoking it?

If you use some, but not all, of your water right and you are sure you will not need the excess water right in the future you can request a “partial” revocation. With a “partial” revocation order, the Board can reduce the place of use, season of diversion, quantity of diversion, and maximum rate of diversion of your water right permit or license.

Please note that a revocation order cannot increase any part of a water right, even if the overall effect is to reduce the water right. For example, a revocation cannot replace a 5-month winter diversion season with a 4-month summer diversion season, because it would be considered an increase in summer diversion even though the net effect is a 1-month reduction of the season of diversion.  Similarly, a revocation order cannot replace 4 points of diversion (PODs) with 3 different PODs, even if the net effect is to reduce the total number of PODs.  Adding new PODs is considered an increase in authorization to divert from the new PODs, even if a similar or greater number of PODs are simultaneously removed.

Can a water storage right be voluntarily revoked?

Yes.  An owner can request revocation of a water storage right. Please note, however, that before a revocation order for a water storage right can be issued, the requestor must demonstrate that water is no longer diverted under the right and that there is no threat of future diversion. This may be more difficult for on-stream reservoirs than for other types of storage because on-stream reservoirs typically divert water passively.  Removing the threat of future diversion posed by an on-stream reservoir typically requires that the reservoir owner either remove the reservoir’s dam or otherwise render the reservoir incapable of diverting water.  In some cases, the owner may be able to remove the threat of future diversion by demonstrating the existence of an alternative water source, such as another valid water right or a valid water service contract, and certifying that the reservoir will be filled exclusively with water obtained from that alternate water source.

Likewise, an owner who requests partial revocation of a storage right must either reduce the maximum reservoir volume (for example, by lowering the spillway), to prevent the diversion and storage of water under the revoked portion of the water right, or specify an alternate valid water right to be used in place of the portion of the water right proposed to be revoked.

What do I need to do before I submit a revocation?

You may greatly reduce the amount of time that Division staff will need to investigate and process a revocation request, if you do the following before you submit the revocation request:

  1. Complete the each relevant section of the revocation request form.
  2. Make sure that every owner of the water right has signed the form.  Under most (though not all) circumstances, anyone who owns a portion of the place of use (POU) associated with a water right, owns a portion of that water right.  If you are not sure where the POU of your water right is, you can review a detailed map of the POU which is publicly available in the Division’s file room.  You can call (916) 341-5400 for file room hours or for information about requesting copies through a file service.
  3. Attach documentation showing that you no longer need or use water available to you under the water right.  Such documentation may include photos depict removal or incapacitation of a dam, removal of a pipeline, filling of a canal, development of former agricultural land, removal of power generation equipment, etc.  It could also be engineer’s reports, satellite images, and annual reports in which you reported that no water was used or diverted.
  4. If you still need and use water but do not intend to divert water under the revoked water right, attach documentation of valid alternate sources.  Such documentation could include receipts for water purchases from a water service provider, well installation and pumping records, Statements of Diversion and Use for other valid water rights, etc.
  5. Submit valid contact information for each owner of the water right.  Revocation requests may be delayed or dismissed, if Division staff is unable to contact the owners of the water right to verify the information in the request, obtain additional information, or resolve discrepancies.

Can my revocation request be denied?

Yes. Upon receiving your revocation request, Division staff will attempt to verify that the water available under the right is no longer needed or used, and that every owner of the water right has agreed to request the revocation (thereby waiving their rights to a hearing before the Board). If Division staff is unable to do so because the information in the revocation request is incomplete, because some owners of the right have not signed the revocation request, because Division staff is unable to contact the requestor(s), or if Division staff determines that the water is still needed and there is no alternative water supply, Division staff may deny the request.

What happens if the other owners on my water right do not sign the revocation request?

To avoid terminating any water right or portion of any water right that is still in use, Division staff usually will not process a voluntary revocation request unless it has been signed by each of the owners. Because water right ownership is typically tied to the place of use, and if the place of use parcel(s) have been subdivided or sold, there may be other presumptive owners of the water right that are not known to the Division or to the owner submitting the revocation request.  If Division staff finds that the revocation request has not been signed by each of the owners, the requestor is notified of the deficiency and given 45 days to submit all the required signatures. The revocation request may be dismissed if any of the owners of the water right do not sign on to the revocation request.

If any of the owners will not agree to request revocation, but you are adamant that you do not want your portion of the water right, you may request a “partial” revocation that removes your property from the place of use (POU) of the water right. Under most circumstances, such a partial revocation will terminate your ownership of the water right, as well as your responsibility for annual water right fees and reporting.

How long does it take to revoke a water right?

The time it takes to revoke a water right is case-specific, and dependent on the Division’s workload and the completeness of the revocation request form.  Since a revocation request can take several months to process, it is best to submit requests before June to avoid fee assessment the following year (see “If I have submitted a request to revoke my water right, do I still have to pay the annual fee?” under the "General Revocations Questions" tab).

What evidence/documentation do I need to submit along with my revocation request form?

Along with your fully completed revocation request form (including the name, contact information, signatures of each of the owners of the water right, and certification that no water is used under the right), you must attach documentation showing that either:

  1. the reservoir or diversion facility associated with the right no longer exists or is incapable of storing/diverting water (documentation may include satellite images, photographs, engineer’s report, etc.) OR
  2. the reservoir or diversion facility exists, but that the purposes of use authorized under the right no longer occur or are satisfied under an alternate right.

If Division staff finds that your water right is still in use, or identifies a threat of continued use, Division staff will not recommend that the Board revoke your water right.

In the case of a partial revocation request, you must select a reasons for requesting the partial revocation, or specify some other reason not contained in the form, AND fill out a table identifying the parameters of the right that you want to reduce, and by what amount.  If you are requesting to remove points of diversion (PODs) or reduce the authorized place of use (POU), you must attach a map showing the existing PODs or POU and identify which PODs or portions of the POU you want to remove.  A partial revocation order may not add PODs or move existing PODs, and the proposed POU must be located entirely within the boundaries of the existing POU.