Water Rights Fee Guide

The Water Rights Fee is jointly administered by the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board) and the California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA).

The State Water Board provides billing information to the CDTFA to process and collect all assessed annual fees.

We developed this guide to provide you with easily accessible information to assist you in understanding the Water Rights Fee program.

Water Rights Fee

Effective January 1, 2004, the California Water Code was amended to require the State Water Board to adopt emergency regulations revising and establishing water right fees and water quality certification fees to be deposited in the Water Rights Fund in the State Treasury.

The Water Code authorizes the State Water Board to periodically adjust the fees and requires it to revise the fee schedule each fiscal year as necessary to conform to the revenue levels set forth in the annual Budget Act. (WAT sections 1525, 1530, & 13160.1.

How the Revenue is Used

The funds are used by the State Water Board to:

  • Cover the cost of activities involving hydroelectric power projects subject to licensing by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission,
  • Cover the cost of establishing plans and policies that address the diversion or use of water,
  • Pay CDTFA for its cost of administering the water rights fee collection program.

About This Guide

Each section of this guide contains important information relevant to the Fee.

The Getting Started section includes a summary of the general application of the Fee, and lists resources related to registration, applicable fee rates, and payments.

The Industry Topics section contains specific topics important to the Fee, including information about assessments and refunds.

The Resources section provides links to useful information, including special notices, and applicable statutes/regulations.

Please note:The general information provided in this Tax Guide does not supersede any law or regulation. This guide summarizes the law and applicable regulations in effect when it was published. However, changes in the law or regulations may have occurred. If there is a conflict between this guide and current law, the current law governs.

If You Need Help

If at any time you need assistance with topics included in this guide – or with topics not included – feel free to contact us by telephone or email. For contact information and hours of operation, please visit our How to Contact Us webpage.

If you have suggestions for improving this guide, please contact us by email.

The California Water Rights Fee is imposed on owners and lessors of water rights. A water right is a legal entitlement authorizing water to be diverted from a specified source and put to beneficial, non-wasteful use. Water rights are property rights, but their holders do not own the water itself. They possess the right to use it.

The exercise of some water rights requires a permit or license from the State Water Resources Control Board (State Water Board), whose objective is to ensure that the State's waters are put to the best possible use, and that the public interest is served.

The fee is based upon a schedule of fees adopted by the State Water Board. The California Department of Tax and Fee Administration (CDTFA) collects the fees in cooperation with the State Water Board.

There is no online registration for this program with the CDTFA.

Water rights owners and lessors are required to register with the State Water Board. The State Water Board provides the CDTFA with feepayer registration information.

For questions about registration, water rights or permits, please visit the State Water Board’s contact us webpage or call 1-916-341-5300.

The Water Rights Fee is based on a schedule of fees set and adopted each fiscal year by the State Water Board.

Visit our Tax Rates – Special Taxes and Fees page to view current and historical water rights rates.

The CDTFA prepares billings (Notices of Determination) at the beginning of November each year, for each prior fiscal year based on information received by the California State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB). The Water Rights Fee is due within 30 days from the date the billing was mailed to you to be considered timely.

Make a Payment – You may submit your payments through our online services system. Log in using your username and password and select the account for which you want to make a payment. Select the More link under the I Want To section. Then select the Make a Payment link and follow the prompts.

Additional Payment Options – Visit our website for additional convenient payment methods.

If paying by check you should submit your payment with your billing to the CDTFA. Make your check or money order payable to “California Department of Tax and Fee Administration.”

Payments must be received/postmarked by the due date to be considered timely. If the due date falls on a Saturday, Sunday or state holiday, payments received or postmarked by the next business day are considered timely.

To make changes to your address or ownership information, change your agent, or revoke your water right immediately contact the State Water Board.The State Water Board mails all correspondence, reports and notices to the most recent owner and address shown on its record. The necessary water right forms are available on their website.

You may be liable for a prior owner’s water rights fee if you fail to notify the State Water Board of an ownership change. You must notify them of the change at least 10 days before the water rights fee is assessed. (See California Code of Regulations, Title 23 sections 830-831 and 1074(c).)

Water rights owners and lessors are required to register with the State Water Board. The State Water Board provides the CDTFA with feepayer registration information.

Visit the sites below for more information about other state, federal, and local taxing licensing information:

  • The Governor's Office of Business and Economic Development (GO-Biz) offers extensive information on state, local, and federal permit requirements. For a listing of their assistance centers, visit GO-Biz.
  • CalGold for information regarding permit and licensing requirements for other state, federal, and local authorities (for example, you may need to be registered with the Franchise Tax Board or the Employment Development Department).
  • California Tax Service Center for additional tax information.

You may also want to consult with a tax professional for assistance on other agency requirements.

If you are billed for the water rights fee in error, you must mail a Petition for Reconsideration to the State Water Board. The petition must be received by the State Water Board within 30 days from the date the billing (Notice of Determination) was issued to be considered timely.

Petitions for Reconsideration must be sent to the State Water Board. They may not be sent to the CDTFA.

The State Water Boards mailing address is:

State Water Resources Control Board
Division of Water Rights
P.O. Box 2000
Sacramento, CA 95812-2000

You may file a claim for refund if you have overpaid the water rights fee directly to us. You may file a claim for refund by using form CDTFA-101, Claim for Refund or Credit. Claims for refund must be in writing and should specify the period for which you are making the claim and the amount of the refund.

You may email the claim form to the Refund Team or mail it to:

California Department of Tax and Fee Administration
Business Tax and Fee Division
Appeals and Data Analysis Branch (MIC 33)
P.O. Box 942879
Sacramento, CA 94279-0033

Deadline to File a Claim for Refund

Be sure to file your claim for refund by the applicable deadline. If you do not file on time, we cannot consider your claim, even if you overpaid the fee. You must file a claim for refund by whichever of the following dates that occurs last:

  • Six months after you overpaid the fee.
  • Six months after the date an assessment or billing (Notice of Determination) became final.
  • Three years after the CDTFA collected an involuntary payment, such as from a levy or lien.

If you have questions about your deadline to file a refund claim, contact our Customer Service Center at 1-800-400-7115 (CRS 711).

Questions related to your water rights license, permit, application, petition, etc. should be directed to:

State Water Resources Control Board
Division of Water Rights
P.O. Box 2000
Sacramento, CA 95812-2000

1-916-341-5300
Fax: 1-916-341-5400

Laws

Special Notices

Related Websites

Contact Us

  • Contact Us – A listing of CDTFA contacts for your questions and concerns.
  • Sign Up for CDTFA Updates – Subscribe to our email lists and receive the latest news, newsletters, tax and fee updates, public meeting agendas, and other announcements.
  • Videos and How-To Guides – These resources will help you avoid common mistakes, file your tax returns online, and more.
  • Online Services – Learn about the online services CDTFA offers.
  • Office Locations and Addresses – A comprehensive listing of all CDTFA offices and contact information.
  • Get It In Writing! – Tax and fee laws can be complex, and you are encouraged to put your tax questions in writing
  • Taxpayers' Rights Advocate (TRA) – The TRA Office helps taxpayers when they are unable to resolve a matter through normal channels, such as speaking to a supervisor, or when there are apparent rights violations.
  • GO-Biz – The Governor’s Office of Business and Economic Development offers extensive information on state, local, and federal permit requirements. For a listing of their assistance centers, visit their website.
  • CalGold – Provides information regarding permit and licensing requirements of other state, federal, and local authorities. For example, you may need to register with the Franchise Tax Board or the Employment Development Department.You may also want to consult with a tax professional or your local city and county authorities for assistance regarding other agencies’ requirements or restrictions.
  • California's Tax Service Center – A one-stop tax help and resource website that guides taxpayers to forms and servic