Thank God, Wettest California EVER, So Far…And Snow Is Deep, Too!

(Take a look in the Table of Contents on the left for past postings on weirs, flumes, orifices, water rights, etc.)

According to DWR’s multi-rain gage measurements today (January 18, 2017), we are getting the MOST RAINFALL EVER!  That is, for the time since man started keeping records.  Our snow is pretty deep, too.  The first graph below shows that snow water content is 151% of normal:


The next 3 graphs show DWR’s precipitation totals for combined rain gage stations.  Graphs are shown south to north: Tulare Basin, San Joaquin, and Northern Sierra:
Tulare Basin Precipitation, January 18, 2017
San Joaquin Precipitation, January 18, 2017
Northern California Precipitation, January 18, 2017

The last 2 graphs show something pretty amazing!  Yes, they show the reservoirs filling fast this year, which is fantastic – they are going to fill and not drop as much as during the last few years.  See the little hook at the end of each hydrograph?  That means that USBR is releasing water faster than it is flowing in for Shasta Lake.  Same thing for DWR’s operation of Oroville.  That’s really neat because both agencies are increasing the flood storage reservation so they (hopefully) won’t spill later!



Reasoning With Regulators, Benefitting From Bureaucrats – Update

I worked 30 years as a bureaucrat.  That gave me first-hand immersion in working with members of the public, especially water right holders who divert water from various streams in Northern California.  When it comes to property rights, owners are intensely interested in getting problems solved, fast and hopefully permanently.  As a property owner I will get the help of whoever I can and whoever it takes to solve my problem.  On the flip side, when I worked for state government, I sure know what worked to get me to work on someone’s problem!

Whenever you divert water, you deal with people.  Your neighbors are very interested in what you divert.  They want you to use only your water right and hopefully less…and they want every possible law applied against whoever takes more than their legal share.

Laws are made by people.  I’m not talking about God’s Laws which are not in your or my control.  The man-made documents and organizations that establish, make, change, and enforce water laws and rules include:

  • the California Constitution
  • the Legislature
  • the Governor
  • Courts at various levels
  • everyone’s favorite: federal, state, and local agencies

file581310649632Agencies, otherwise known as bureaucracies, all have one thing in common.  To emphasize a very important point: they are all run and staffed by people.  Some folks are easy to deal with, others aren’t.  Some are truly caring human beings, and others hide behind the policies of their employer.

What exactly is a bureaucracy?  Here is a very good explanation:

By the way, corporations are the same as bureaucracies in a lot of ways.  Since we are talking about the diversion of surface water, that means bureaucracies.  And bureaucrats.

There are some money-saving, hassle-saving methods to dealing with bureaucrats.  These are time-tested and have worked for me and many others.  When other people acted this way with me, when I was a bureaucrat, to get me to do something even when I was too busy, it worked!  Hopefully these practices and techniques will aid you in dealing with an agency or a particularly difficult bureaucrat.

  1. Do some research.  “Google It”, as the saying goes, and learn about the agency you are dealing with.  (Actually, I am using Bing and DuckDuckGo as much as Google these days, to get accurate instead of popular results.)  Search for comments by people who had the same problem as you.  How did they handle it, and what was the result?  Did someone have a particularly effective way of getting a problem solved?  It might be worth an hour of your time to use the Internet to find out everything you can first.
  2. Document your problem in writing before contacting a bureaucracy, with text, photos, maps, drawings, contacts, everything you can get on paper.  Scan it if possible so everything you have can be emailed.
  3. Assuming you are calling or talking to the person, write everything down.  E-ver-y single thing.  Date all the entries.  Get each person’s name.  You might buy a cheap spiral bound notebook at a WalMart or Dollar store – or buy a few, and the ones you don’t use when dealing with bureaucrats you can use for a diary, or shopping lists, or dealing with corporations.  Let the person know that you are keeping careful notes.
  4. Always be polite, and especially so during the first few contacts about a problem.  Do not threaten, curse, yell, or any of those things that would be classified as “impolite”.  If the person you are talking to gets unpleasant, just keep a record of it for later, and maintain your calm demeanor.
  5. Explain your problem or need in as few, relevant words as possible.  Boil your problem into one or two specific things that you need done.  That way a helpful person can get you the help you need quickly, without strain on your vocal cords or his or her ear.
  6. Don’t share your life story, complaints about your neighbor’s dog, the hassle you had getting your car repaired, or go into what a rotten, horrible person your neighbor is.  That is wasted time.  Unless what you say bears directly on the problem, it takes away working time from the person listening on the other end of the phone line, or reading your email, or sitting across the table from you.  There may not be enough time left to solve your problem!
  7. Give thanks and credit to the people who help you.  Call their boss, or write the boss a note about the great work they did in helping you.  Let everyone else you talk to about your problem know about those helpful people.
  8. If a bureaucrat says “It’s not my job”, politely explain the person’s statutory/legal/moral or other obligation to help you, and the terrible consequences to you if the person does not carry out his or her agency’s mission.  Give a reasonable estimate of the economic harm or cost involved.
  9. On the other hand, if the answer you get is “I have no idea how”, don’t get frustrated, get more contacts from the person.  You’ll be following a trail, sometimes clear, sometimes through thick brush.
  10. If you are talking to the right person and cannot get the help you need, or an exemption from a rule, or whatever help you are looking for, ask to talk to the bureaucrat’s boss.  Don’t insult the employee to the boss, just explain to the boss that he or she has the great power needed to help you.
  11. If the boss cannot help, ask to talk to his or her boss.  See the pattern here?  Be courageous and go up the line as high as you need to go.
  12. Take a few minutes and search online for the names and contact information of the people on the Board, or the Director, or the Chief, of the bureaucracy you are dealing with.  It can help to let a bureaucrat know that you know who these people are, and while you really don’t want to have to go that far, you will contact them if necessary.
  13. If you are being harassed or threatened by an agency and you are pretty sure they are going above and beyond their authority or normal practice, there are ways to get them to back off or slow down and listen.  Sometimes mentioning that they may be in violation of RICO, the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act, can give them pause.  Ask them for all communications in writing – that can cut up to half of bureaucratic actions off right at the knees.  Ask bureaucrats to include references to all laws, rules, regulations, codes, court cases, etc., that they are relying on.
  14. Find the agencies, boards, or people to whom you can file a complaint, if you have exhausted all normal ways of getting the help you need and you haven’t been helped.  You may even have to enlist the help of staff at your state legislator’s office, or your congressperson.
  15. Although it is expensive, you may have to hire an attorney.

That’s a long list, but if you are dealing with the State Water Resources Control Board, a lot of those folks are reasonable people.  The main problem at the Board is that these folks have five times the work to do than they can get done.  You’ll probably have to call several times to get someone’s attention.  See Rules 1 and 2 above!


1,000 AF + Diversion Measurement Device Install Deadline Passed…Req. For Addl. Time Due 30 Days After Available Online

If you divert over 1,000 acre-feet a year, or over about 4 cfs during the irrigation season, your measurement device deadline at the Water Board was January 1.  However, you can file a Request For Additional Time until 30 DAYS AFTER THE FORM IS AVAILABLE ONLINE.  It is January 18 today, so the filing deadline has to be later than February 17, 2017.  This is a welcome UPDATE from 10 days ago, when the Deadline was January 30.

I am often nervous about just mailing a letter or filling out a form online; the letter could fall off a table and the web-based form does not always work.  You can always send an email to record your intent to make the request.  This also helps in case you are unable to (or forget, with 99 other things on your to-do list) fill it out by the deadline.  You will have a record that you are making the request and intend to fill out the form.  Who should you email?  See the post Update – Who To Call At The Board? for names, phone numbers, and email addresses.

See the second table below for the original deadline table, including approximate equivalent water rights.  Let me know if you need help!
SWRCB Water Rights: Water Use Reports and Measurement webpage, January 18, 2017

SWRCB Measurement and Recording Requirements for 2017 (diverters exempted where Watermaster reports)
SWRCB Measurement and Recording Requirements for 2017 (diverters exempted where Watermaster reports)

Rotation On 1 Farm; Between Diversions / Farms; And After Subdivision

This post is about individual water rights, not those that are distributed by a water district, irrigation district, water company, or other organization that can sell and assign shares of water.  Side note: if your diversion is 100 AF to 1,000 AF per year, now (January-February) is a great time to get your measuring device installed and certified!  Diversions of ~0.4 to 4 cfs take smaller devices – many can be installed between storms before the busy spring season.  If you live on or farm a parcel that was subdivided from a ranch that had water Williamson_Parcel_Outline_on_DecreeMap_reducedrights, it will take you and your neighbors some planning and work to do to share the water equitably with your neighbors.  This map shows multiple owners on land that used to belong to just one owner, H. Leggett, when the South Cow Creek Decree was issued by the Shasta County Superior Court in 1968.

Originally on the Leggett place, there wasn’t enough water to irrigate the whole ranch at one time.  The water was rotated between one part and another. Maybe it took 10 days of turning the water into one field and then another, and after that there may be a to 10 day pause.Pixabay_water-340468_1280

Rotation also took place by agreement or adjudication between several diverters.  Below is shown the northwest part of Sheet 5 of the South Cow Creek Decree.  The green areas show the decreed irrigated acreage mostly in the correct spots.  You can see that the H. Leggett was neighbors with A. Otten to the north, E. Frisbie and X. Shuffelberger to the northeast, H. Fraley to the southwest…and these diverters may have rotated and combined diversions to get a slug of water to push over a whole field quickly.  One may have had water for 5 days for a larger farm, another for 2 days for a smaller farm, and so on. The rotation would have repeated through the irrigation season, with the time periods usually staying the same. That way, as natural flows decreased through the irrigation season, everyone shared the loss because they each had the same percentage for the individual irrigations.

Shasta Co. Sup. Ct. South Cow Ck. Decree Sht. 5, NW part
  Shasta Co. Sup. Ct. South Cow Ck. Decree Sht. 5, NW part

There is another kind of rotation that happens as land is subdivided over time. An original 800-acre ranch may be split into 10 parcels today. If the ranch originally had 4 main ditches, many of the parcels today don’t touch a ditch. What’s the solution?

When a bunch of smaller, feeder sierra_vly_sht_5_legend-editedditches are put in, then most of the water will soak into the ground before it gets to the parcels it is supposed to irrigate. If instead, landowners agree to get water for, say, 40 parcels

  Sierra Valley Revised Decree Map, Portion Around Sierraville

 at a time, then a higher volume of water may be pushed across all of the properties before it is sent to the next group of landowners.

Of course, investment in infrastructure, such as lining or piping ditches, might
make water available to most of the people for most of the time. Rotation can be alleviated by more and better plumbing. The monetary cost is higher, sometimes much higher, but getting more water overall can be worth a lot.  Not having to be home on all rotation days is worth something, too.

Hat Creek Shearin Tract
  Hat Creek Shearin Tract, from August 2014 Revised Decree Map

What happens when a subdivision is built on what used to be a farm or ranch?  In some cases, new owners have invested in pipelines to keep rotating the water between the smaller parcels, or supply all parcels at once if the pipelines increase efficiency enough.  In other places, some new owners use water, others don’t, which is fine as long as a new owner doesn’t complain loudly.  The map above is from the revised Hat Creek Decree map, showing one original ranch that subdivided into 60 + parcels.  Some parcels get surface water from the ditch, other, newer owners have put in a few pumps and pipelines to ensure decreed water rights are available to smaller parcels today.

In still other locations, none of the new homeowners wanted to use the water, either because there was a built-in municipal supply of treated, safe water, or

Subdivision - Photo Credit: Pixabay
  Subdivision – Photo Credit: Pixabay

because one or more wells were drilled.  No water is diverted, so none is rotated.  The existence of surface water rights probably was not advertised when the parcels were purchased, and once the new owners were built homes, it became too expensive to arrange pipelines across several neighbors’ properties to get a share of the surface water right.

In summary, rotation has been part of most farms and ranches since the beginning.  Physical rotation of a water right on subdivided parcels takes forethought and planning.  It is least expensive when new ditches or pipelines are installed before the new parcels are built out in houses and businesses.