State Water Resources Control Board

Mission Statement

The State Water Resources Control Board (State Board) and the nine (9) Regional Water Quality Control Boards (Regional Boards) work together to protect California's water resources. With passage of the Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act in 1969, the Boards together became the "principal state agencies with primary responsibility for the coordination and control of water quality." In 1991, the Boards were brought together with five other State environmental protection agencies under the newly crafted California Environmental Protection Agency (Cal/EPA).

The State Board is generally responsible for setting statewide water quality policy and considering petitions contesting Regional Board actions. The State Board is also solely responsible for allocation of surface water rights. The State Board is organized into four divisions encompassing three broad program areas and an administration function that supports not only the State Board, but also the nine Regional Boards. Five full-time, appointed Board members and over 550 employees work at the State Board.

Within the State Board, the Division of Water Quality is responsible for providing the statewide perspective on a wide range of water quality planning and regulatory functions, including regulation of activities affecting wetlands under Federal Clean Water Act and State Porter-Cologne Act programs. The Division of Water Rights may also at times be involved in regulating discharges to wetlands as they pertain to regulation of water storage or hydroelectric facilities.

The nine Regional Boards are each semi-autonomous and comprised of nine part-time Board members appointed by the Governor. Regional boundaries are based on and consistent with major State watersheds. Each Regional Board makes water quality planning and regulatory decisions for its region. These decisions include issuing State waste discharge requirements (discharge permits) or recommending Clean Water Act certification for activities affecting wetlands and other water bodies. Most Regional Board decisions can be appealed to the State Board. Together, the Regional Boards have over 650 employees working in 12 regional locations.

Major Roles and Responsibilities in Wetlands Management

The State Board and the Regional Boards promulgate and enforce narrative and numeric water quality standards in order to protect water quality. Also, the Regional Boards adopt and the State Board approves Water Quality Control Plans (Basin Plans). Basin Plans identify (designate) legally-binding beneficial uses of water for water bodies, including wetlands, assign water quality objectives (criteria) to protect those uses, and establish appropriate implementation programs.

The State Board and the Regional Boards regulate discharges of harmful substances to surface waters including wetlands under the federal Clean Water Act (CWA) and the California Porter-Cologne Water Quality Control Act (Porter-Cologne). Discharges to dry land are regulated under Porter-Cologne. For discharges to most wetlands the Regional Boards have the lead permitting role and decide which regulatory instrument to use. Regional Boards may specify wetland restoration, enhancement, or mitigation as a condition of a permit to discharge to a wetland.

Legal Mandate

The Porter-Cologne Act establishes a comprehensive program for the protection of water quality and beneficial uses of water. It applies to surface waters (including wetlands), groundwater, and point and non-point sources of pollution. The Regional Boards regulate discharges under Porter-Cologne primarily through the issuance of waste discharge requirements. Porter-Cologne provides several means of enforcement, including cease and desist orders, cleanup and abatement orders, administrative civil liability orders, civil court actions, and criminal prosecution.

Section 40l of the Clean Water Act gives the State Board and Regional Boards the authority to regulate through water quality certification any proposed federally-permitted activity which may result in a discharge to water bodies, including wetlands. Among such activities are discharges of dredged or fill material permitted by the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers under 404 of the CWA (e.g., navigational dredging; flood control channelization; levee construction; channel clearing; and fill of wetlands or other water bodies for land development). The State may issue, with or without conditions, or deny certification for activities which may result in such discharges.

For more information on the State Water Resource Control Board contact:


Division of Water Rights
1001 I Street, 14th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Tele: (916) 341-5300

Division of Water Quality
1001 I Street, 15th Floor
Sacramento, CA 95814
Tele: (916) 341-5455


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