Permits for Groundwater Recharge

Capturing and storing surface water generally requires an appropriative water right. Parties can obtain new water rights or change existing water rights to authorize groundwater recharge projects.

For parties obtaining new water rights, there are different water right applications that are available for groundwater recharge: standard and temporary. The type of application needed depends on the project operation length, intended use, and urgency. Standard water rights are ideal for long term projects. Temporary permits are best for short term diversions. Temporary permits are not water rights. Temporary permits are a conditional approval to divert and use available water that has not been claimed by a water right holder.

Capturing surface water to artificially recharge groundwater aquifers is an important method for achieving groundwater sustainability and complying with the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act (SGMA). Accordingly, Groundwater Sustainability Agencies (GSAs) pursuing new standard rights for purposes of implementing SGMA may elect to compile an application designed according to the streamlined criteria.

The Groundwater Recharge Permit Type webpage provides a table and more information on when each type of permit can be used.

NOTICE: When considering the impact of applications for a new or amended permit for groundwater recharge projects on public trust resources or other matters of public interest, the State Water Board intends only to consider those adverse changes that may result from approval of the new permit or amended permit or license and not existing conditions.

News and Announcements

  • Newly authorized way to divert flood flows without a permit: Flood Recharge Diversions (Water Code §1242)
  • On September 18, 2019 the State Water Board adopted a fee structure that includes a reduced application filing fee and annual fee for water rights issued pursuant to the streamlined permitting process. The reduced fees will go into effect in late 2019 or early 2020. Parties who apply prior to any specialized fee structure going into effect should expect to pay the existing standard application filing fee.
  • Executive Order B-39-17 the State Water Board to prioritize temporary water right permits for projects that enhance the ability of a local or state agency to capture high runoff events for local storage or recharge. The Executive Order also suspends the provisions of the California Environmental Quality Act (CEQA) for State Water Board actions on these types of temporary permits. Executive Order B-36-15, issued November 13, 2015 and rescinded April 7, 2017, contained a similar directive.

    Application filing fees for temporary permits to divert to underground storage during high flow events are described in the current fee schedule summary.


For more information, please contact the designated permitting section staff. For all other water right inquiries, please call (916) 341-5300.