Why should I measure my surface water diversions if others on the same stream do not?
Installation of a device costs time and money, maybe thousands of dollars and a few days plus the use of a loader. Sometimes the unspoken question is, if I am getting more than my water right, why should I hold myself to just diverting what is legally mine? None of the readers of this blog would ask that, but some others out there might.
This is something like the question, why should I drive the speed limit if some or most of the other drivers are speeding? We have all seen the answer – speeders eventually get pulled over by police or highway patrol, while those who stay close to the speed limit generally get left alone. I’ll bet that you’re like me- I am a lot more relaxed after driving within the limits, then if I put the pedal to the metal and get somewhere an hour earlier.
50 years ago, many diversions were in the middle of nowhere and the only way there was past a protective landowner or manager. Now roads have pushed out to the middle of nowhere and so have Google Earth, recent aerial mapping, government regulations, and government employees.
In the world of water diversions, the water district, ditch tender, watermaster, or Water Board folks know who is complying with the law and who is not. The one who has a measurement device and stays within his water rights tends to get left alone. On the other hand, the law-abiding diverter gets listened to more when he or she complains that he’s not getting the water he should.
Social influence – peer pressure – also come into play after the first person on a stream installs and starts using a measurement device. The fact that a neighbor invested and did the right thing to comply with water laws encourages other diverters to do the same. Or at least, the water right holders who don’t have a weir or meter can see that it is inevitable and they’ll be more readily convinced to do the same.
Sometimes a diverter is not getting the full water right, even though he thinks he is. In this case, being able to measure the water means being able to demonstrate that when the diversion is increased, it is still within the legal amount. I have seen this happen a few times, and the result is a rancher or farmer who is a whole lot happier than he or she was last week!