Watercourse Enforcement

Watercourse Enforcement provides flood protection for the community by taking enforcement actions to ensure the quality and nature of the watercourse is intact. This includes preventing prohibited activities and monitoring the timely maintenance of the watercourse within an owner's property.

Definition: Watercourse is defined as any surface water body in which waters from a tributary drainage area of 100 acres or larger flow in a definite direction or course, either continuously or intermittently, and any area adjacent thereto which is subject to inundation from a 100-year flood. Watercourse includes any arroyo, canal, channel, conduit, creek, culvert, ditch, drain, gully, ravine, reservoir, stream, wash, waterway or wetland.


Prohibited Watercourse Related Actions:

(a) Deposit any material of any kind in a watercourse which may impair, impede or accelerate the flow of water therein so as to adversely affect adjoining property.

(b) Plant any vegetation (other than grasses or annual crops) within a watercourse which may impair, impede, or divert the flow of water in such watersourcse (unless this is required by a land development permit issued by the County).

(c) Commit any act on or in any easement dedicated, granted or reserved for flood control or drainage purposes which will impair the use of such easement for such purposes.

(d) Construct substantial improvements within a mapped County and FEMA flood plain or flood way.

*Prohibited unless an approved permit is first obtained from the County of San Diego. 

*(e) Alter the surface of land, by construction, excavation, embankment or otherwise, so as to reduce the capacity of a watercourse.

*(f) Construct, alter or remove any flood control or storm water drainage structure facility or channel of or in a watercourse.

*(g) Construct or place any structure in, upon or across a watercourse.

*(h) Place fill or encroachments that would increase the flood level or impair the ability of a floodway to carry and discharge the waters resulting from the 100-year flood, within a mapped floodway.

Exemptions from Prohibited Watercourse Related Actions:

Section 87.604 of the grading ordinance summarizes the activities that are exempt from the watercourse requirements. Examples of these exempt activities are listed below.

- Activities in a waterbody with an upstream tributary area of less than 100 acres.

- Specified agricultural tilting or cultivating work.

- Specified utility construction.

- Emergency watercourse grading.

- Specified surface mining operations. 

Contact Watercourse Enforcement

The Watercourse Enforcement officer is an office and field staff that may be out in the field investigating and responding to resident complaints. However, you do not need an appointment to simply file a request for investigation; you may stop by our office or email/call Theodore Gajda (Watercourse Enforcement officer). 

Private Development Construction Inspection office
5510 Overland Avenue, Suite 210
San Diego, CA 92123 

Email Address:

Public Office Hours:
Monday - Friday
8:00am - 4:00pm

Watercourse Enforcement officer phone:
(619) 359-9809

Helpful Resources

Grading Ordinance Chapter 6 - San Diego County Grading Ordinance Watercourses.

Water Tip Sheet - General guidance for watercourse activities and contacts.