California Department of Water Resources

California Department of Water Resources

Infobox Government agency
agency_name = California Department of Water Resources
nativename =
nativename_a =
nativename_r =
logo =
logo_width = 140px
logo_caption =

seal_width =
seal_caption = Seal of the state Department of Water Resources
formed = 1956
date1 =
date1_name =
date2 =
date2_name =
preceding1 = Water Project Authority
preceding2 = Department of Public Works
dissolved =
superseding =
jurisdiction =
headquarters = 1416 9th Street, Sacramento, California
employees =
budget =
chief1_name = Lester A. Snow
chief1_position = Director
chief2_name =
chief2_position =
parent_agency = California Resources Agency
child1_agency =
child2_agency =
website =
footnotes =

The California Department of Water Resources, also known as the DWR, is a department within the California Resources Agency. The Department of Water Resources is responsible for the State of California's management and regulation of water usage. The department was created in 1956 by Governor Goodwin Knight following severe flooding across Northern California in 1955, combining the Division of Water Resources of the Department of Public Works with the State Engineer's Office, the Water Project Authority, and the State Water Resources Board.



California recognizes many types of water rights. These rights have developed with the State over time. Prior to the Treaty of Guadalupe Hidalgo, signed in 1848, California was part of Mexico. Riparian rights were the most prevalent type of water right. Under riparian rights, which have their origins in Roman law, a landowner can use water flowing by his property for use on his property. However, the Mexican Government also provided for agricultural pueblos, by granting water on the public domain for these pueblos. When California became part of the United States, the United States agreed to recognize existing law. Pueblo rights were the only vested water rights at the time. Pueblo rights provided that Spanish and Mexican Pueblos were entitled to the paramount beneficial use of all needed naturally occurring water from the entire watershed of a stream flowing through the pueblo.

When gold was discovered in 1848, immigrants from all over the world came to California. During the California Gold Rush, gold miners, who were not generally land owners, would divert large quantities of water from rivers and streams for hydraulic mining. Local custom dictated how water was shared in mining camps, but in general, the miners followed the same practice in allocating water as they did in staking their mineral claims. In its earliest form, an appropriative water right was created simply by taking water and putting it to beneficial use. However, to "state a claim" miners would often post a notice to others that they were taking and using water. Soon after California became a U.S. state in 1850, the first session of the California State Legislature immediately adopted laws to deal with the State's water. This included the adoption of the English common law system, which also included the doctrine of riparian rights, although this system was better suited to the water rich eastern United States. Shortly thereafter, the California courts recognized appropriative water rights.

Because of these plural systems of water allocation, disputes soon ensued; these differences were resolved by the state courts. In 1872, the Legislature adopted a procedure in the Civil Code to provide a method for those claiming an appropriative water right to record their claims with the County Recorder of each county. In 1886, the courts addressed competing claims between "riparians and appropriators in the case of "Lux v. Haggin." " However, within 25 years, excessive claims to water rights threatened to affect economic development in the State. In response, the Governor formed a Water Commission to make recommendations regarding California's water law. In 1913, the California voters adopted by referendum the Water Commission Act, which created the state Water Commission and set forth an administrative procedure for acquiring an appropriative right.

In 1926, the courts held that a riparian water user was entitled to the full flow of a stream, without regard to the reasonableness of the use. In response, in 1928, the California Constitution was amended to require that all water use in California be reasonable and beneficial. (Article X, Section 2).


In 1878, William Hammond Hall of the Office of State Engineer conducted a series of investigations in California's Central Valley and drafted a series of plans calling for various publicly funded and owned irrigation projects. Hall's study was accomplished on a budget of $100,000. [] . The Central Valley continued to grow in the absence of a state-run project, yet Central Valley land owners and coastal cities (including San Francisco) managed to acquire water rights in the Sierra Nevada mountain range for use in the valley. Under Hall's tenure, a series of permanent flow gauging stations were established on several California rivers.


In response to growing political and legal contests for limited water resources, the Water Commission Act of 1913 established the Water Commission to oversee permits associated with the rights to use surface water. The Water Commission Act became effective on December 19, 1914. Landowners or water users that had established water usage prior to 1914 became senior water rights users in many of the more accessible watersheds in the state. Appropriative water rights were processed by the Division of Water Rights, originally under the State Engineer, and subsequently under the Department of Water Resources, the State Water Rights Board, and finally, the State Water Resources Control Board.

In 1919, Col. Robert B. Marshall, Chief Surveyor for the U.S. Geological Survey, purposed a plan for the federal government to build a series of diversion dams, and two grand canals along the sides of the Sacramento and San Joaquin Valleys, consequently irrigating California's Central Valley. Though national interest in Marshall's plan was limited, there was an interest in California for pursuing the proposed project.


In 1927, the California State Legislature passed a law authorizing the Department of Finance to file applications with the Division of Water Rights to reserve any unappropriated surface water for future development. A number of claims were filed on July 30, 1927. The Department subsequently acquired water rights permits that resulted from some of these filings. In 1933, the California State Legislature and Governor Sunny Rolphy approved the construction of the Central Valley Project, with initial plans to build a 420 foot dam at Kennett. This would provide regular flows out to the San Francisco Estuary, reducing salinity intrusion into the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Unable to finance the construction of Kennett Dam, the state applied to the Federal government for aid. After the U.S. House of Representatives Committee on Rivers and Harbors reviewed the state plans, Congress enacted the Rivers and Harbors Act of 1935, giving the U.S. federal government control over the Central Valley Project (CVP).


In the mid-1950s, California was experiencing substantial growth. San Francisco's Caspar W. Weinberger, Chairman of the California Assembly Government Organization Committee, held a series of state-wide hearings in 1954 and 1955 focused on creating a State Water Project that could supply the growing municipal and agricultural demands of the dtate. On July 5, 1956 in a special session of the California Assembly, Governor Goodwin J. Knight signed Weinberger's bill to combine the then Division of Water Resources of the Department of Public Works with the State Engineer's Office, the Water Project Authority, and the State Water Resources Board into a new department: the Department of Water Resources. Consulting engineer Harvey O. Banks was appointed by Governor Knight as the Department's first Director and given the task of developing a plan for the proposed State Water Project.

In 1959, the Legislature enacted the Burns-Porter Act which authorized $1.75 billion for the construction of the proposed State Water Project. The Burns-Porter Act was approved by California voters in 1960 and in the same year the Whale Rock Dam, DWR's first major water project located near San Luis Obispo, was completed.

In 1961, William Warne was appointed Director of the Department and oversaw the construction of a key facility in the operation of the State Water Project: Oroville Dam. DWR and the United States Bureau of Reclamation also signed an agreement to design a joint reservoir in San Luis. Because water from the Oroville and Shasta dams (from the existing Central Valley Project) would be moved down the existing Sacramento River channel into the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta, excess flows would roll through the Delta and then be stored in the Central Valley until needed. Construction of the Harvey O. Banks Pumping Plant, located near Tracy, California, also began in 1963.

DWR Timeline

Legal and Political Authorization

Though DWR was formed in 1956 with the purpose to build and operate the State Water Project, as a State organization responsible for the development and protection of water resources, the Department has since been subject to numerous legislative, judicial, and administrative orders that dictate how the Department should protect the public trust. Like any other water user, DWR must apply for water rights permits from the State Water Resources Control Board. The water rights decisions of the Control Board limit the amount of water that the Department can provide to communities and also are responsible for many of the legal, administrative, and environmental projects that the Department has adopted. Unlike most other users, the Department also must answer to the Governor's Office and State Legislature. Flood control and local assistance programs often have a basis in DWR's role as a resource trustee, while water supply, environmental mitigation, and electricity generation are often related to DWR's role as a water permittee.

List of DWR Projects

Conveyence and Storage Facilities

* Oroville Dam (1967)
* North Bay Aqueduct
* Clifton Court Forebay
* Harvey O. Banks Pumping Plant (1968)
* South Bay Aqueduct
* California Aqueduct
* O'Neill Forebay
* San Luis Reservoir (1967)
* Coastal Branch
* Whale Rock Dam (1960)
* Edmonston Pumping Plant (1971)
* West Branch of the California Aqueduct
* East Branch of the California Aqueduct
* Silverwood Lake
* Lake Perris

Flood Control Projects

* Sutter Bypass
* Tisdale Weir
* Tisdale Bypass
* Sacramento Weir
* Yolo Bypass

Mitigation / Restoration Projects

The following is a list of projects that DWR oversees or contributes to that are designed to mitigate the impacts of the operation of the State Water Project.

* Feather River Salmon and Steelhead Hatchery (1967)
* Thermalito Afterbay (1968)
* Yolo Bypass Wildlife Recreation Area
* Suisun Marsh
* Skinner Fish Facility
* South Delta Improvements Program []
* South Delta Temporary Barriers Program

List of DWR Directors

ee also

External links

* [ California Department of Water Resources official site]
* [ DWR South Delta Improvements Program]

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