What if your weir breaks, flume tilts, inline flowmeter freezes, or your headgate jams? Don’t panic, but don’t ignore it. Get help to fix it. If you are in a water district,
community services district, watermaster service area, or other place
where some agency regulates the flows, then contact them. Otherwise, you will be dealing with the Water Board concerning your measurement device and reported diversion amounts. Write it down: what happened, when, for how long, what you did to fix it. Scan what you wrote so you can send a PDF to staff at the Water Board if requested.
The photo to the left is an example – on a stream where I watermastered, a diverter had not put in any device on a diversion. About 4 times the legal right was going down the ditch. I said, “Gimme the materials” and put in a board orifice. Then I gave the diverter a 30-Day Notice to put in a permanent device, which he did. A temporary fix solved the problem, and once the permanent headgate and weir were installed, the problem stay fixed.
If you had a professional install it (like Rights To Water Engineering), you are likely to get help soon, and maybe at a reduced cost if it is easy to fix. While you are trying to get a good and permanent fix, do something wrong instead of nothing. Well, not wrong, but do something as a stop-gap, knowing it will be replaced very soon. Put in temporary weir boards, check them once a day, write down everything you do, stay in touch with the Water Board. Communication is important – let staff at the Water Board know there was a problem, you are working on it, and you are taking steps to get it fixed right. The good folks at the Water Board are not looking to slap fines on people; they are looking for diverters to act reasonably, do something to start making the problem less.
Notes on broken weir box, July 12, 20xx. The weir box collapsed in on the north side when my neighbor drove a tractor tire over the backfill. The boards broke and are completely jammed in. I stuck a plywood, 90-degree V-notch weir about 20 feet downstream in the ditch, bracing it with 2″ x 4″ boards on the downstream side. I am measuring the flow once a day, and adjusting the headgate so the stage over the weir stays at 1.05 feet, which the table says is 2.81 cfs. My water right is 2.85 cfs so I am taking less. The data logger collects data every hour, but that data
is no good starting July 12. I called the Water Board and talked with Paul Wells, who asked when and how I intend to fix it.
July 23, 20xx – Rights To Water Engineering sent out a technician who brought a new concrete weir box. It is installed where I had the temporary plywood weir. The new weir box is 4 feet wide, same as the old one. The data logger is in the new box, so it reads the same as the old weir did. I will email my notes to Paul Wells at the Water Board, and I will include the notes in my annual report of diversions.
At last! The Department of Water Resources (DWR) is seriously considering
planning for flooding the Tulare Basin and other San Joaquin Valley fields in the winter for groundwater recharge! I worked at DWR for 30 years, and there were proponents of recharge when I started in 1986…actually, since the 1977-1978 drought. I kept waiting for a pilot program to test it. Stony Creek in Glenn County was put forward in the 80’s and 90’s…and then nothing. The meadow restoration crowd said another 100,000 acre-foot “reservoir” could be made in upper Stony Creek just by building check dams, deepening and widening meadows. Between the top and bottom of just one creek, maybe 160,000 AF of new storage per year!
I worked on the proposed Sites Reservoir and personally, I am all for it. However, it’s dumb not to include every increment of winter-time storage possible. When the floods come then put some of them in the ground.
Bull. I call cow pies (I try hard not to cuss). The Water Board is part of the California Environmental Protection Agency now, including the Division of Water Rights. Has been for some years, and many of the more balanced staff have retired, as they hire more environmental activist enforcers. From what I have seen, a majority of the non-Water Board part of Cal/EPA executive, managers, and staff believe non-humans have more right to the water than humans.
As many of you diverters have predicted for years, now the troublesome proposal is nearly a reality – an anguishing, changing world for you who work at least half-days (6 A.M. to 6 P.M.) to grow our food in businesses that get thanks from a small percentage of Californians.
It’s a conspiracy against older folks! That’s right, young web designers – which are most of them – are purposely discriminating against you and me. They are gaslighting us, or trying to anyway. We think our eyes are going faster, or we need a new computer monitor. In reality, it is just their stupid web page design.
The Millenials who are trying to make us think we’re going blind are lemmings going off the cliff of backlash against this old type of web page:
I love Millenials as much as the next person – my wife and I had three of them ourselves. But come on, don’t you younger types want us to READ your pages, and BUY the stuff sold there?
The market ultimately wins out. As you young, eagle-eyed web designers keep doing this, we’re taking our attention and money elsewhere!
This is a story about Larry Lucifer and Sally Saint, neighbors for 12 years on Rowdy Creek. Larry is third generation on the same property, which was originally a 320-acre ranch. His grandparents subdivided it for their 8 children, and some of then kept their 40-acre pieces, while a couple subdivided into ranchettes. Sally and her family moved onto one of the smaller parcels and built their starter home.
The names have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty in this story. However, most
of Larry’s neighbors know him to have strong opinions that he is happy to share with anyone; using Lucifer as his last name is probably a fair characterization. He knows what everyone else should be doing with their property, how they should vote, what they should drive, what their kids should do…and what their water right is. He thinks he has a genetic ability to look at water in the creek or a ditch and tell you exactly what the flow is. Larry has somehow stayed out of jail for his more famous misadventures, and he is happy to sue anyone he has a disagreement with.
Sally Saint is truly a nice lady who gets along with her neighbors. Her husband Mark
works for the Bureau of Reclamation and she works at a nail salon in town. Their 2 kids are nice, and involved in various sports and 4H, and they get good grades. Sally volunteers at the schools and writes a beauty column in the local paper. She is fairly well known and everyone likes her.
Mark is working overtime at the Bureau, so Sally is the one who puts in boards and irrigates from the ditch. Everything went fairly well until 2012, and since then it seems to Sally that there has been a lot less water. Larry’s whole pasture stays green all the way through August – hers is half dry in July. Somebody must be stealing water! The only one upstream on the ditch is…Larry.
Sally doesn’t like conflict, so she asked around some. Is there someone her other neighbors call about water problems? Nope, there is no ditch tender for the diversions from Rowdy Creek, everyone takes care of their own water. Sally used Bing to search online: water problems, ditches…water rights. Yup, water rights brought up some likely results. One of the government offices
is even close by – the Department of Water Resources (DWR) Watermaster Service. She called and talked with the Senior Engineer in the Surface Water and Watermaster Section and then she took notes on what he said as fast as she could write:
“It’s not a water right from a court decree, so DWR has no jurisdiction. Do you know the basis of your water rights? No? I’ll give you the Water Board’s number before we hang up.
“First, write down everything you know that is a fact, as well as what you think is going on. Be clear on what you know and what you do not know for sure.
“This is really important: TALK TO YOUR NEIGHBOR FIRST. This makes good sense – if you can resolve a problem between the two of you, it is the cheapest, easiest, fastest, friendliest way to fix things. Of course, be polite, ask questions, listen to what he says, don’t accuse. If this works, you might keep from making an enemy unnecessarily. Wouldn’t that be wonderful? Sometimes it works! If it does not work, at least you tried.
“You might find out you are wrong – maybe your neighbor Larry is diverting a lot more than his right because he is legally combining flows from several diversions, all at one diversion. Maybe he has a larger right than you thought, because he bought his neighbor’s property. It could be a one-time thing – he had to flush his ditch for maintenance, or he was doing a trial flood-up after leveling land. He could even be adding well water to the ditch somewhere you can’t see, and since it’s his he takes it out down the ditch.
“Make sure you are diverting correctly, Sally! Even if you are the nicest person
in the world, and your neighbor is as bad as you say, you will be upset and embarrassed if your neighbor turns around and finds you doing something wrong! I don’t know your ditch or property, but I suggest that you get a measurement device installed, and a data logger working, your online reports to the Water Board submitted and current. Given the size of your property, you probably need to record data every hour.
If you have enough fall in your ditch, you could put in a weir box from Briggs Manufacturing in Willows. If not, then a sheet-metal flume from Intermountain Environmental, or I have a local friend that can make you a flume. Oh, and I know a guy who can install it and a data logger right and make sure it’s working, inexpensively. Give me your email and I’ll give you all their contact information.
“It is a really good idea not to ask for help from law enforcement officers (LEOs) or officers of the court. They are not trained in, nor are they water diversion experts. It wastes their time and yours to have to respond, and then it is frustrating for everyone when our LEOs cannot help to resolve a situation. If a water argument goes sideways and turns into a water brawl, then definitely call 9-1-1!
“DO contact the folks who have authority or at least have water rights and/or
water flow measurement expertise! It is always safe to:
“They will either be able to help you directly, or to point you in the right direction. For example, sometimes people in Community Service Districts, Water Districts, or Watermaster Service Areas call the Water Board, and staff there will refer them back to whoever regulates the water diversions there. You’ll need to work with the district or agency that has authority over regulations if there is one. Otherwise you’ll waste time and money for little or no effect.
“If the Water Board folks are the ones who can solve your problem, then you will need to file a complaint. Complaints used to be filled out by hand, now they are, of course, filled out online athttps://calepacomplaints.secure.force.com/complaints/ Make sure you have a measurement device in first, if you can, so all of the Water Board’s attention will be focused on your neighbor and not you.
“You will have to scan any paper documents you have. Many home printers have a scanner – if you do not have one, then get help from a family member, or a business supplies store. Oh, you have one? Okay, save documents as Adobe PDF files if possible; they are usually the format that results in the smallest file size. Cute PDF and other freeware can make a PDF file from your scanner output image files – JPEG, PNG, etc. Better yet, download the free NAPS2 scanner software on your computer – it can save scans directly to PDF format. If you are desperate, you can use a digital camera to take a photo and send that…but it distorts the document, and small text may not be readable.
“Make your complaint effective and easy to work on, by providing complete information:
Provide documentation of water rights. Do you know what the water rights are, because they come from a permit or license, or decree, or other document? Include them to save the government folks time…and establish that you know what you are talking about.
Get Google Earth or other maps, or sketches and drawings of the area. Write on them the property boundaries, owners’ names, diversion locations, and other pertinent information.
Write a clear, concise statement of the problem: “My neighbor has a water right of 1.5 cfs, and I think he is diverting 3.5 cfs.”
Provide photographs or video, all you can get.
Provide any measurements you have made and recorded. What were the dates, times, water depths, flows if you know them?
What do you want to have happen? Explain clearly: “I want my neighbor to reduce his diversion from 3.5 cfs to his actual water right of 1.5 cfs, so I can get my full water right.”
“I think that’s about it, and I am 5 minutes late for a budget meeting so let’s call it good for today. Call me back if you have any questions. You too, have a great week.”
So, what did Sally do next? This post is long enough – I’ll tell you the rest of the story soon!
I said yesterday that my blog posts will slow down. Then this notice from the Water Board hit my email inbox. These proposed water rights fee increases apply to existing and proposed permits and licenses, not pre-1914, court adjudicated, or riparian rights…unless someone also got a permit or license for one of these.
Why do the fees have to be increased, and why does the Water Board say it is an emergency?
Work is ramping up, which is a good thing, but posts in this blog may slow down. I’ll have a post out on what do do if a neighbor is stealing water, in a couple of days.
A question came up from a client: Am I associated with a government agency?
The answer is: Nope, I am not. I retired from one – the California Department of Water Resources – but I have no obligations to anyone except
you, the client. I do not share clients’ information, either, except when someone hires me on purpose to report their diversion amounts to the Water Board, or to certify a measurement device for the Board.
Have a good weekend, let’s pray for more snow and rain!
What if you have a diversion where NO standard measurement device works, at all? There could be several reasons where a device just will not get the amount of your diversion properly:
Your diversion is by seepage underground, subsurface flow that comes to the surface in your field. There is no ditch to put a measurement device in.
Your channel runs to a reservoir or a field acting like a shallow pond, but the
flow either runs in or back out into the stream depending on how high the stream flow is. In this case, flow might go either way, for a positive or negative value of diversion, or none at all for standing water, depending on when you look.
Your diversion is a bunch of small channels, with holes dug in the streambank where water comes out in shallow ditches. Sometimes the major part of the diversion switches between small channels, so no device or devices will adequately measure the diverted flow.
Here’s whereAlternative Compliance will be more accurate than a guess, and may be the only way of measuring your diversion! What reasonable options might work to measure what you divert? Here are some methods used:
If your diversion goes to a reservoir, survey it to develop an elevation-storage table. Engineers call these area-capacity curves, the terms are interchangeable. This only works if the reservoir is not being filled and used at the same time! In other words, you fill it, then you empty it, and maybe you fill it again. If you do fill at the same time you release from the reservoir, then you will need two standard flow measurement devices and two data collectors: a device and data logger at both the entrance and the exit.
If a field is flooded and then the diversion is shut off, then treat it as a reservoir. How big is it, in acres? What is the average depth, in feet? Multiply the area by depth, and you have acre-feet. You probably need to add a value for infiltration, what soaks in before the field is flooded. This will likely be at least 5%, up to 20% or even higher for volcanic soils.
Use acceptable values from CIMIS for evapotranspiration for your crop. Work with NRCS or DWR to get infiltration values – what soaks into the ground and ends up as groundwater.
Measure the flow in the stream, upstream and downstream of the area where diversion occurs. This is actually done as a matter of course in places like Sierra Valley, where each diversion may be taken at 3 to 8 locations for one ranch or farm.
Measure a stream as a system – with a gage at the upper and lower ends, like the Hat Creek top gage and bottom gage, at least the diverters can be sure the total water right is not exceeded. This doesn’t satisfy the law for individuals, but it will show agencies that the stream as a whole has the right amount of flow left in, so it might keep out the Water Board, Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, etc.
to the Water Board and then starts using it! There is no approval or denial process. The catch is, the plan will be posted online where neighbors, other diverters, and various government agencies can read it and make comments to the Water Board. If the plan does not seem reasonable, at that point the Water Board can insist on a different plan. If the new plan is done and certified by the appropriate professional, then the diverter is in the clear. If not, then after a span of time the Water Board may assess up to $1,000 per day fines.
The key to making Alternative Compliance work and not get push-back from the Water Board, is communication. Talk to theWater Board staff, make a working relationship with one or two, send them an email of updates, don’t just rely on submitting the form. Having a relationship with someone on staff can cut through the confusion and help you get your point across. If not that, then make sure the person who is doing the plan for you, is one who talks to Water Board folks regularly!
It was getting hard for ME to go back and find the posts I had written, so I added a Table Of Contents (TOC) to the left menu bar. As of this date, there are 86 posts! I like to put work into standard, documented procedures to simplify life and make it easier for me to do the same thing next time, and for the next person in my job to pick it up quickly. Why did I wait this long to do a simple TOC?
I wrote 5 times this much verbiage in emails as a bureaucrat, so it is not lack of ability. Of course most of my State emails were for everyday work and coordination. Little of it had public interest.
In this blog, though, every post is of interest to a few thousand water right holders. The TOC lets you scroll through every post at your leisure and pick out the titles you are most interested in today. Tomorrow you’ll have a different question, and the TOC and blog posts will still be here for your use.
Do you have a question or an idea you do not see in the TOC? Let me know and I’ll publish a post about it!
On the How Do I? page, I picked out the burning questions and the posts that provide the best answers. When I received phone calls in the Watermaster job from which I recently retired, this lookup format was most useful in helping someone solve an immediate problem.
Is there a water rights issue or flow measurement problem you can’t find an easy answer for? Let me know and I will write a post, then include the link on this page, too!
This isn’t directly about water rights or devices, it is about how to find the information you need. In the past I suggested using the Google search engine to find a specific past blog post on a subject. For example on losing water rights, I might try Googlinglose my water right. The first result would be my blog post, Can I Lose My Water Right?. Most people love Google – it is part of the language – “Google it!” – and it searches blazing fast.
Now, however,Google‘s search algorithm may find it, ormay NEVER find it. A big part of the reason is that Googletries to give you “the answer you really want” – their engine makes assumptions for you. That’s nice when it is right, and can make you tear your hair out when it is dead wrong. Also, Google is better than the NSA at storing every fact about your life, forever, so they can make a profit from you. That’s fine, I am a big fan of capitalism, but it means Google may skew your search results or remove certain results altogether. Sure, Google will list it first if I quote the search: “lose my water right”, but how many times are we sure of the exact phrase?
For more reliable search results, I use Microsoft’sBING.com nowadays. BING is
more literal in searching the words you enter. As the Avis car rental company used to say, “We’re number 2, so We Try Harder!”BING does try harder to answer the searches actually entered into the box.
When you can’t find something,don’t use Google, use BING or DUCKDUCKGO to get the answers you are really searching for!
As a check, I tried each search engine on the unquoted phrase lose water right. I thought it might show up on the first page with Google, but it did not. Since my blog post is ONLY about losing water rights, I thought it might at least be in the top 10. As a matter of fact, when I had searched 6 or 7 times on Google, it blocked me from searching for that phrase at all, thinking I might be a robot. That’s funny, since I am using a Google Chromebook which uses Google‘s own operating system!
When I did the same unquoted search, lose water right, on BING and DUCKDUCKGO, the blog post “Can I Lose My Water Right?” was the sixth result on the first page.
Who would have thought that the Internet tools you use can make such a big difference with the information you find? As I just told my wife, I am using BING more and more to get what I actually requested! BING is not just the name of a famous crooner or a kind of cherry anymore.
Yes, if you know how much you divert by the month or week, you can take it to the bank. Literally, if you have good numbers, it can make the difference between getting the operating or improvement loan you want, or working harder to get a lesser amount. Your water right is a resource, just like the land, equipment, seed, feed, livestock, or anything else. The better proof you have on just how much of that resource, in this case your diversion, that you have, the more solid it looks to a banker.
Another well-known fact, you have to measure your diverted water to manage it. Chris Reilly, the
Department of Water Resources Indian Creek Watermaster in Plumas County, educates people on this fact all the time. In one case, a diverter was correctly diverting the right amount, but was losing more than half of it in the short ditch before it reached the field. Why didn’t the farmer know? He had not measured it. Once Chris measured it, the owner knew what he was losing. He piped part of his ditch and was able to irrigate more acreage. That’s money in the pocket once the pipe is paid off!
Every buyer of property has a bunch of questions, and how much water is actually available is top of the list for a farm or ranch. If you can show records of how much you divert, it gives certainty to a doubtful buyer or potential lessee. They’ll know how much they can expect to have for irrigation in a wet, normal, or dry year. I had so many calls over the years I worked at the Department of Water Resources, from realtors, attorneys, buyers, and sellers, asking “What is my water right? How do I prove it?” Sometimes it was sell or no-sell depending on the answer. On one ranch near Fall River, a riparian right on a square-mile ranch was in question. A Nevada buyer called me several times trying to understand California water rights and prove whether or not there was a solid water right on this ranch. If the seller had documented his water right and how much he diverted annually, there would have been no doubt at all!
It supports your water right. Water rights make land worth more, a LOT more than dry land. The better a water right is documented, as well as diversions made under that right, the more solid you right is.
Most farmers want their kids to inherit the place and keep it in agricultural production. It is a way of life available to fewer families each year, which means it is scarce, and that makes living on a working farm that much greater a gift to leave behind you. Your will, or trust, or LLC, or corporation documents, need to be all squared away so your wishes are met after you have passed on. A proven water right is one of the important things you’ll need in that documentation to ensure your family can keep irrigating the farm down the generations.