eWRIMS Board Water Rights Search – Part 2

In Part 1 of this discussion, we looked at the different types of water rights included in the Water Board’s eWRIMS water rights search Water_Board_eWRIMS_screenshotdatabase.  Now we’ll talk about how to narrow down your search to find just the water rights of interest.  The majority of questions people have are about their own water rights.  How can you find out what eWRIMS has about your water right?

If you pick the eWRIMS Database System link, and hit the “Accept” button at the bottom of the next page, you’ll arrive at at the Water Rights Records Search pageWater Rights Records Search screenshot - Edited.  This looks like a data entry form, and allows you to search by water right type, status, ID, county, etc., and most relevant for finding your own, by Primary Owner.  Whoops!  I sure thought it was – it is now disabled.    Maybe that’s temporary, but even a couple of weeks ago I was able to put in “California”, for example, and find the rights held by State agencies.  As a matter of fact, none of the searches I am trying right now even list any results in the “Holder Name column.

UPDATE:  Search by Primary Owner is working again as of June 29, 2016 at 8:30 A.M.  Thanks, eWRIMS folks for restoring it!

Next, try your County, Source (River name or Source Name), Entity Type, and Hayfork Creek Trinityany other information that you know.  This will give you a list of results.  For example, entering Trinity for County and Hayfork Creek for Source yields 31 results.  Without the “Holder Name” listed it is tough to tell which one is yours…unless you also know one of your IDs.  If that functionality is restored that it makes it easy.  One CAVEAT – if you or the previous owner have not updated the current owner (as the Board requires), then the person’s name will be some previous owner.  You’ll likely recognize it.

eWRIMS GIS Hayfork - EditedIf “you can’t get there from here”, then you can search by map, in the eWRIMS Web Mapping Application (GIS).  The map starts by showing all of California and you zoom in to your area.  When you zoom in far enough, you’ll see rectangular labels of various colors start to appear.  You can click on these to see the individual Application, Permit, License, or Statement of Use.  The screenshot above shows part of Hayfork Creek in Trinity County.

If you have not used eWRIMS, try it out for your and your neighbors’ water rights.  Remember, most riparian and nearly all adjudicated water rights will NOT show up here, but pre-1914, post-1914, some riparian, and some other rights will.  Next time we’ll talk about some of the information you can find on forms for the various rights and statements.

For now, happy water rights searching!

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AllWaterRights Blog Moving To ShawnPike.com / eWRIMS Board Water Rights Search – Part 1

The AllWaterRights Blog is Moving!  http://www.shawnpike.com is my permanent site, and as soon as I get the formatting done all the new posts will be over there.

In the meantime, how does someone search for water rights in California?  It used to be an onerous task – and today it is only half-onerous.  🙂  Actually the Water Board gets more information every day and puts it into the Electronic Water Rights Information Management System – eWRIMS for short (pronouncedWater_Board_eWRIMS_screenshot ee-rims).  This screenshot shows the two important links.  The first is to the database, which gives text tables of results and links to some form-entered documents, and some scanned documents.  The second link goes to the geographic information system (GIS), which consists of mapped points linked to the database, on top of reference maps.

What can you find here?  In short, nearly all the post-1914 appropriative Water Rights Applications, Permits, and Licenses can be found here.  Most of the pre-1914 appropriative, and an increasing number of riparian water rights can be found here.  The 2009 water laws that increased reporting requirements and greatly increased penalties, moved most water right holders who had not been filing, to get on the train and avoid the pain.  If you search with no parameters, then the database returns a listing of all records, over 52,000 right now.eWRIMS_query_all_edited

What’s missing?  Nearly all adjudicated water rights are not found on eWRIMS.  There are thousands of rights defined in numerous Superior Court Decrees, that are not found in the database.  Statements of Use are filed for these rights, but not in a form that is easy to put into eWRIMS.  Where could you find these?  We’ll cover that in future posts.

http://www.shawnpike.com is up and running, right now with the brief front page.  More to come soon!  A good night to all.

Save Water? Ask Savers…And Depend On Capitalism

Faucet_Pixabay_water-1239368_1280
Pixabay, public domain

Do you think of Florida as short on water?  I sure didn’t; I have been there a couple of times and got rained on every day or two.  However, a University of Florida study on saving water concludes that if more conservation is needed, it’ll be easiest to get from those who already use less water.  That study is summarized in this short article.

On the opposite coast, what does that mean for California?  It means that voluntary conservation seems most likely to come from those who are reportedly conserving the most:  farms and communities in the San Joaquin Valley, and agencies and homeowners in the Los Angeles Basin.

1024px-USACE_Black_Butte_Dam_and_Lake
Black Butte Lake, Wikipedia

Does that mean that water districts and diverters in Northern California do not conserve?  There may be less conservation, especially if diverters have a reservoir.  Winter and spring flows are stored for later use.  Those flows would have gone to a a river and usually, out to the Pacific Ocean.  We’ll leave out the discussion of environmental uses of instream or stored surface water, except to say that they are one possible kind of use.  There are usually some senior water right holders who have first call to the water, or who get a higher percentage during a drought.

How about irrigators who have little or no water storage?  Since they depend on natural flows, droughts mean there is less flow available.  It’s not voluntary, but the diverters share the losses, either

FloodedField_Pixabay_nature-1252579_1280
Pixabay, public domain

with lower priority water right holders  shutting off first, or everyone taking a cut if everyone has the same priority.

The photo on the left shows flood-irrigation, which is the least efficient method and raises the hackles of downstream diverters, or just about anyone south of the Delta.  Flooding allows less productive land in California’s mountainous areas, often with shorter growing seasons, to be used to for pasture to raise cattle and other livestock, or for hay which might be used anywhere in the Western U.S.

3inPipePasture_Pixabay_spraying-294628_1280
Pixabay, public domain

Even though not required, flood irrigation is being replaced over time with more efficient methods.  Ranchers and farmers want to make scarce water stretch farther and irrigate more acres than flooding would allow.  Land is being leveled right now to make

SprinklerPasture_Pixabay_water-340468_1280
Pixabay, public domain

flooding go further.  Sprinklers are increasingly used, so that less is diverted in the first place.  Plain capitalism makes upgrades economical for the long-term.  This isn’t an instant result, like voluntary conservation brings, but more water is available for instream and downstream uses every year.

These irrigation improvements are part of the reason that the State Legislators, Governors, and the State Water Resources Control Board have been careful about what laws to impose in the

WheelLine_Pixabay_irrigation-403371_1280
Pixabay, public domain

upper watersheds.  Many of the rights in the upper Sacramento River Basin are defined in Superior Court Decrees, and so are senior rights.  However, the State has and still can make laws that reach back and change the rights in these old decrees.  Many of you diverters on these streams have continually explained to politicians and bureaucrats that suddenly modifying or qualifying water rights can wipe out billions of dollars of agricultural production overnight.

So, yes, the fastest voluntary conservation will be had in the southern two-thirds of the state.  And a lot of senior water right holders up where rain and snow fall, in the northern third of the State, may be experiencing the same or even greater percentage of involuntary reductions in diversions at the same time.  “One size fits all” conservation may still not be equitable.

That’s enough on this for today.  Let’s hope and pray that precipitation is higher than forecasts next winter!

Water Issues Blogs/News – South, Central, and North

“All politics is local”, said U.S. Representative and House Speaker Tip O’Neill and water issues are local too, when it comes down to you and me using water.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tip_O%27Neill
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Tip_O%27Neill

There are also good regional and local blogs and news aggregators so we don’t have to pick through short, syndicated news articles to get the straight scoop.

I have had calls asking, “Where do I get information on California water issues and water rights?  Is there a website that covers it?”  California is too big and there are thousands of local water issues, so no one site could even try to cover it!  Hundreds of blogs and news sites are hosted by groups and associations, for every imaginable location and use of water.

We’ll just look at blogs and news covering Southern, Central, and Northern California.  That’s a diverse look at water issues in this highly varied state, and these three sites can give us a lot of detail (“granular” information in politispeak) about local goings-on.

SoCalWater_HomePage - EditedThe Southern California Water Committee does not actually have a blog, but they have a great mix of blog posts and news articles that function as a typical blog. SCWC’s Mission is on their home page which you can see to the left: “The Southern California Water Committee addresses our state’s most critical water issues in order to ensure continued economic growth for California, and a secure, reliable water supply for its people”.  There is an Issues page to quickly read summaries of main concerns to Southern Californians.  It looks like this blog is growing quickly so check it often for updates.

METWDSC_Blog - EditedSouthern California is so big, in population and in the importance of water, that a
savvy reader has to look at the blog of the Metropolitan Water District of Southern California.  The professional H2outlook Blog can take up some hours or days of your time getting educated on MET’s perspective…and it is worth your time!

You will have to help me when we get to the middle; I could not find a specifically BayDeltaBlog - Edited“Central California” blog.  The Bay Delta Blog seemed promising for covering the Delta, the focus of Central Valley issues.  Unfortunately, the last post was in 2012.

 

The California Water Blog, mentioned here previously, has quite a few posts on Central Valley issues.  We’ll call that the go-to for the middle of the State for now.

Northern California Water Association:  From their About page, The NCWA Mission is “to advance the economic, Screenshot 2016-06-08 at 23.18.59 - Editedsocial, and environmental sustainability of the Sacramento Valley by enhancing and preserving its water rights, supplies, and water quality.”  This site covers issues in the wetter part of the State, where most of the snow and rain fall.  It’s a busy blog and, like the H2outlook Blog for the South, you can spend days here catching up on issues in the North.  Of course the issues covered by NCWA extend well into the Central Valley, too.

These sources are very good and will give anyone an in-depth understanding of each region’s main water concerns.  Please let me know of other in-depth blogs and I’ll list them here.

That’s enough for now and I wish the best for you in the use of your water rights.

Can I lose my water right?

This is a question that comes up all over California, every day.  It usually comes in one Headgate on streamof two ways:

  1. I’m about to buy some land.  Will I have a water right if the previous owner did not use it for X years ?
  2. My neighbor hasn’t used his right in X years.  He lost it, so I can use it, right?

The short answer is yes, an appropriative, post-1914 water right can be lost.  Court-decreed water rights, riparian rights, and pre-1914 are major exceptions, usually – we’ll discuss those cases later in the post.  What most people are thinking of is the provision from WATER CODE SECTION 1240-1244:

1241.  If the person entitled to the use of water fails to use beneficially all or any part of the water claimed by him or her, for which a right of use has vested, for the purpose for which it was appropriated or adjudicated, for a period of five years, that unused water may revert to the public and shall, if reverted, be regarded as unappropriated public water. That reversion shall occur upon a finding by the board following notice to the permittee, licensee, or person holding a livestock stockpond certificate or small domestic use, small irrigation use, or livestock stockpond use registration under this part and a public hearing if requested by the permittee, licensee, certificate holder, or registration holder.

Diversion box to field“Board” means the  State Water Resources Control Board.  The emphasis on “may” and “if” is mine, and it is important.  Loss of a water right under this provision is not automatic.  It takes a complaint by someone to get it started, just as it takes a complaint for someone to get a water rights case heard by the judge of a Superior or Federal Court.

Then, if the water right holder protests that yes, he or she has diverted water during the last 5 years, it’s up to the complainant or the Board to prove that water was not diverted.  This might be from yearly photos of the land in question (rare), testimony by several neighbors;, or a lack of records from the water right holder, showing that there was indeed pasture with cattle, or hay, or some other beneficial use; or some other evidence.

Let’s consider riparian rights and then put that discussion aside.  A riparian water right cannot be lost for non-use, since it is established by the Constitution of the State of California.  Riparian rights are not being considered here.

How does someone know that their water right may be on the chopping block?  They will have already had phone calls and probably visits from Board staff.  There should be no surprise at this point.  Then, the Board will send a letter that starts something like this:

Notice_proposed_revocation

There is an opportunity to dispute the assertions in the letter, and a water right holder can request a hearing (or hearings) before the Board.  If the alleged non-use is not a watertight case, the process can take a year or longer.

What if the water is a pre-1914 water right?  Can it be lost?  The answer used to be a fairly solid “no”, but the Board’s authority has increased in recent years.  It is harder to lose a pre-1914 right but the best defense is having used it at least once in the past five years, and having some proof it was used.

Diversion box from diversion

What if the water right is part of a  State Superior Court  or  Federal District Court  decree* or adjudication?  Interestingly, very few decrees have ANY provision for expiration of water rights.  In addition, courts usually maintain jurisdiction of these cases, so that any following petitions or lawsuits over decreed water rights must go back to court.  In essence, this makes decreed rights “eternal” or permanent, unless the rights are changed in a subsequent lawsuit.  *Statutory adjudications where the Board issued an Order of Determination, and then took it to the Superior Court to be adjudicated, might be easier for the Board to bring before the court for a revocation action.

What does the Water Board think about that?  Board staff assert that they have “concurrent authority” with State Superior Courts.  That means they have equal power over water rights.

Credit: Pixabay
Courthouse.  Photo Credit: Pixabay

Some at the Board say they have authority over the same water rights that the court does.  Is that true?

Let’s say that it is true.  Has the Board ever asserted its authority over decreed water rights in court?  The last few times I asked Board staff, the answer was

“no”.  So it may be true, but as far as I have heard, it has not been tested.  So, no, decreed rights cannot be revoked by the Board without going to court.

Summarizing the subject of losing post-1914 appropriative water rights for five years of non-use, then, they can be lost if the water right holder admits it, or if there is good evidence that water has not been used.  Pre-1914 rights are harder to lose but it can happen.  The Board cannot revoke riparian rights because they are defined in the State Constitution.  Court-decreed rights cannot be revoked by the Board without going to the court with a petition or as part of a lawsuit.