Calif. adds water diversion fines

State law requires those who divert water from our lakes, rivers, streams, and creeks to report their monthly diversion and use. For the health of California, it is important to understand how much water is available versus how much is being used.

There are four types of water-use forms that diverters file with the California State Water Board, or SWB. The new penalties apply specifically to Statements of Diversion and Use.

With some exceptions, those who divert water after Jan. 1, 2009 and commit any of the four categories of violation are subject to the new penalties. Those who do not have to file statements may have to file other types of use reports which are subject to different laws and provisions.

Key Points

• Many don’t need to file diversion reports, but use reports.

• The California State Water Board fine for false reporting is $25,000.

• California and Kansas both impose false reporting penalties.

Those exempt

Those who do not have to file Statements of Diversion and Use include:

• those who divert from a spring that does not flow off the property on which it is located, if the total diversion is not more than 25 acre-feet per year

• those that divert under a small domestic or livestock stockpond registration or certificate

• those that divert under a permit or license to appropriate water issued by the SWB

• those that divert from a source regulated by a court- or state-appointed water master, where the water master maintains records of the diversion.

If a violation is discovered, the SWB will notify those responsible and may assess the initial penalty.

The period for correcting the violation begins on the date of notification. The penalty increases daily after the correction period has passed. The deadline to file water use for 2009 is July 1, 2010.

The penalty for accidental misstatement $250 to $500. This includes misstatements caused by a broken water measuring device.

The willful misstatement penalty is $1,000 to $25,000. This includes those caused by tampering with a water measuring device. Other violation penalties are nothing to $500.

Current law requires supplemental statements to be filed every three years. Supplemental statements can be filed using an online reporting system. First-time filers may print the paper Statement of Diversion and Use from the Publications and Forms page at

State comparison

In Kansas, annual water-use reports are mailed during the first week of the year and are due back in the office by March 1. If a report is not filed or is filed late, the Division of Water Resources accepts a reduced fine of $50, provided the report is filed before June 1. After June 1, the full $250 fine stands.

If they fail to respond, some violators have had the penalties deducted from their state tax refunds.

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DON’T DIVERT: Waterways and farmlands make interesting patterns in the San Joaquin River-Sacramento River Delta — and diversion opportunities. They must be reported or the diverters will face fines.

This article published in the April, 2010 edition of CALIFORNIA FARMER.

All rights reserved. Copyright Farm Progress Cos. 2010.