State Water Resources Control Board

waterboard_logoThe State Water Resources Control Board, or State Water Board, is the state agency given the regulatory responsibility to protect the water quality of nearly 1.6 million acres of lakes, 1.3 million acres of bays and estuaries, 211,000 miles of rivers and streams, and about 1,100 miles of coastline.  The mission of the State and Regional Water Boards is to preserve, enhance, and restore the quality of the state’s water resources and ensure their proper allocation and efficient use for the benefit of present and future generations.

The State Water Board develops statewide policies and regulations for California’s water bodies under the authority of the Federal Clean Water Act and the state’s Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act.  The board has primary responsibility for meeting state and federal water quality standards, assessing groundwater quality, permitting pollution discharges to ground and surface waters, and directing the cleanup of contaminated groundwater resources.The State Water Board also oversees the state’s Drinking Water Program.

Just as importantly, the State Water Board administers the water rights program to protect the public trust resources  and ensure that the public interest is served by overseeing the allocation of water resources to various entities for beneficial uses such as irrigation, hydroelectric power generation, and municipal use, as well as fish and wildlife uses.  In the process of protecting water quality and allocating water rights, the water boards must balance competing demands for water resources while utilizing the best available science, working with other agencies with intersecting responsibilities and being mindful of the impacts of their decisions.

Within the State Water Board, there are nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards with boundaries generally based on watersheds.  The regional Boards develop “basin plans” for their hydrologic areas, issue waste discharge requirements, take enforcement action against violators, and monitor water quality. The State Water Board coordinates the state’s nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards (Regional Water Boards), which serve as the frontline for state and federal water pollution control efforts.  The State Water Board and the nine regional boards are part of the California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal EPA).

Click here for more on the update of the Bay Delta Water Quality Control Plan.

While most water quality control planning is done through basin plans developed by the Regional Water Boards, the State Water Board develops and adopts the Bay-Delta Water Quality Control Plan because of its importance as a major source of water supply for the state. The Bay-Delta Plan protects water quality in the region and includes water quality objectives to protect municipal and industrial, agricultural, and fish and wildlife beneficial uses.  The Bay-Delta Plan, last completed and adopted in 2006, is currently being revised. Click here for more information on the Bay-Delta Plan update.

The State Water Resources Control Board has its roots in the Dickey Water Pollution Act of 1949, which established the State Water Pollution Control Board. In 1963, the legislature changed the name of the board to the State Water Quality Control Board.  Legislation in 1967 combined the functions of the State Water Rights Board and Water Pollution Control Board to form the State Water Resources Control Board. Two years later, the passage of the Porter-Cologne Act of 1969 broadened the reach of the State Water Board by granting it ultimate authority over water rights and quality, and empowered it with additional pollution control duties.  The legislation also established the nine Regional Water Quality Control Boards.

The State Water Board is governed by five board members appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate who serve four-year terms on a full-time basis.  By law, the board must filled by one person qualified in the field of water quality, an attorney qualified in the fields of water supply and water rights, a civil engineer, a sanitary engineer, and a member of the public. Click here for information on the State Water Board members.

Each regional board has seven part-time members who are appointed by the Governor and confirmed by the Senate.  Click here for more information on the Regional Water Boards.

The State Water Resources Control Board meets every first and third Tuesday at Cal EPA Headquarters Building,1001 I Street, in Sacramento. The meetings are webcast. Workshops on specific issues are scheduled as needed. Click here to view the board calendar.

Visit the State Water Resources Control Board online at

 State Water Board meeting coverage on Maven’s Notebook

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