DWR has released a finalized memo regarding appropriating return flows. This memo was put forth in response to claims to “appropriate return flows”, which are made on occasion in conjunction with changes of water right. DWR staff’s experience is that such claims have not been adjudicated in a consistent manner. Further, we are unaware of any comprehensive analysis of this topic.
This memo describes how DWR staff, in conjunction with the Attorney General's Office, understand the legal use of the return flow portion of a water right historically used for irrigation, requirements for replacement of return flows under different scenarios, and potential new appropriations of waters of the state made possible by a change of water right. DWR intends to use this memo to guide our comments in water court cases and our actions in the administration of water, and we are making it public to inform the water community of our perspective.
The topic was presented on May 10, 2023 at 10 am. and is now available. You can now access the DWR Appropriating Return Flows Webinar on DWR's Youtube Channel.