Regulations and Building on Creek Property

If your property has a creek or waterway flowing through it, you are responsible for complying with all regulations. Construction, erosion repair and planting on your property may all require a planning process and a permit. Always contact your city or county planning department first before beginning any project. The following are general guidelines, and specific questions should be directed to the Regional Water Quality Control Board.

1. Use Water Legally

Water diversions from creeks are only legal if you have an official Riparian Right, an Appropriative Water Right Permit, or a Small Domestic Registration.

2. Regulations and Regulatory Agencies

Note: The list below is only a sampling of the permits that may be required. For more information, view or download the Guide to Watershed Project Permitting for the State of California published by the California Association of Resource Conservation Districts at

Local Regulations: City/County Planning Departments

Local requirements vary from area to area, so check with your City or County Planning Department(s). Click here to read more about the Alameda County regulations.

California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW)

If your project has the potential to impact any state-listed endangered or threatened species, you will have to consult with the CDFW under the CA Endangered Species Act. State regulations require you to notify CDFW of any proposed activity that will:
  • substantially divert or obstruct the natural flow of any river, stream or lake;
  • substantially change or use any material from the bed, channel, or bank of, any river, stream or lake; or
  • deposit or dispose of debris, waste or other material containing crumbled, flaked or ground pavement where it may pass into any river, stream, or lake.

State Water Resources Control Board

Anyone wanting to divert water from a stream or river not adjacent to his or her property must first apply for a Water Right Permit from the State Board. A Water Right Permit is also required when there is intention to take water from a creek for storage or for direct use on non-riparian land.

Regional Water Quality Control Board

Federal Clean Water Act (CWA) Section 401 Water Quality Certification This certificate is required for every federal permit or license for any activity that may result in a discharge into any waters in the United States, including flood control channelization, channel clearing and placement of fill.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service

If a project may result in hunting, harming, harassing, pursuing, shooting, wounding, killing, capturing, trapping or collecting for a listed species, an Incidental Take Permit is required.

Army Corps of Engineers

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has permitting authority over activities affecting waters of the United States. Waters of the United States include surface waters such as navigable waters and their tributaries, all interstate waters and their tributaries, natural lakes, all wetlands adjacent to other waters, and all impoundments of these waters. Please visit their website for more information.