Winter 2014 pg11

Water Use

Here’s a simplified summary of state water registration requirements. For more information click on the Water Rights pdf on the homepage of the Salmonid Restoration Federation, at

The State Water Resources Control Board Division of Water Rights requires all people diverting surface waters to file a basic statement disclosing the amount and location of water being used, how it’s taken, and the basis of your right to take it.

(Riparian rights mean you have streamside access to water on your property, which must be taken and used within 30 days on the same parcel. Other-wise you must apply for Appropriative rights, which mean you’re taking water from another property, or are using it less directly.)

Groundwater, which means well water or surface water from a
source whose flow never leaves your property, is the only kind of water you may use without registering your use. You can download the registration form at There is no fee for this filing.

If you don’t have a riparian right, you must file for an appropriative right. For example, you can file for the right to store up to 3 million gallons of water for domestic use in the summer, subject to the Department of Fish and Wildlife determining that this won’t harm fish or wildlife. This small domestic use registration costs $250 for 5 years, and the form is also available from the waterboards website.

The Department of Fish and Wildlife has an additional layer of requirements for Lake and Streambed Alteration permits. Notification is required by any person, business, state local government agency, or public utility that proposes an activity
that will:

  • substantially divert or obstruct the natural flow of any river, stream or lake;
  • substantially change or use any material from the bed, channel, or bank of, any river, stream, or lake; or
  • deposit or dispose of debris, waste, or other material containing crumbled, flaked, or ground pavement where it may pass into any river, stream, or lake.

If your diversion matches any of these criteria, you may need a 1600 agreement. Contact DFW for information on fees (which vary depending on the project) and how to get started. The Eureka office is at 619 Second St., (707) 445-6493.

Currently, compliance for these requirements is complaint-driven. If you receive a legal notice from the Water Boards and don’t respond for 30 days or more, you may be fined up to $1,000, plus $500 for every additional day of diversion where a Statement of Diversion has not been filed. On the Fish and Wildlife side, they too may fine you, and require that your diversion be removed.

Thanks to the Salmonid Restoration Federation for
compiling and sharing this information.


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