Good News Jan. 18, 2019 – Rainfall, Snowpack Up To Average

Here’s some good news!  Rainfall and snowpack are up to average as of January 18, 2019.  The plots below are from  –>  Precipitation  –>  Tulare / San Joaquin / Northern Sierra Plots, and –> Snow –> Daily Regional Snowpack Plots.   We have been praying for rain and snow, and the Good Lord is providing it:


Installing Reservoir Staff Gages

How is a staff gage installed in a reservoir?  The typical way is to drive a piece of 2″ galvanized pipe into the ground, deep enough to so it isn’t easy to push over.  If cattle will be in the reservoir to get water, then the pipe needs to be really well installed.  A gas-powered post pounder can be rented at Rental Guys, Home Depot, or similar places.

Most reservoirs are deeper than six feet, so it’s best to maximize the length of pipe installed.  The length of pipe that can be installed by hand is usually about 6 feet.  For a 6-foot tall pipe, about 3 feet of pipe needs to be in the ground, so the total pipe length is 9 feet.

Then the staff gage is attached to a 2″ x 8″, using screws or small bolts.  Staff gages vary in width from 1″ to 4″; the usual USGS Style C staff gages are 2-1/2″ wide.  Once the staff gage is screwed on, the board is U-bolted to the pipe.

That’s it…except for the surveying part.  The top of staff gage needs to be at the same level as the spillway crest, so the maximum water surface elevation can be measured.

If the reservoir is deeper than 6 feet, and most are, then staged staff gages may be needed.  The first gage is installed at the top, going from, say, 6 feet to 12 feet.  The second, lower staff gage is installed from 0 feet to 6 feet, and 6 feet is exactly the same elevation on both staff gages.  In the photo below, there are 3 staged staff gages to measure 18 feet in elevation.  The top of the third, lowest staff gage can be seen in the bottom right corner.

What if a pond is full, or mostly full?  It is still possible to install a staff gage, but it will be harder.  Boats or rafts will be needed, and the pipe with the board already attached has to be put in place and held vertical while being driven.  If the total depth is greater than 6 feet, then a longer pipe, board, and staff gage will be needed, and the combined weight will be that much greater.  Hint: tie a rope and buoy to the pipe so when if it slips and sinks, it can be pulled up again.

What about installing a staff gage along the slope of a dam, to avoid having to wrestle a pipe and board for a deep installation?  This can be done by attaching a length of rebar or pipe to the dam face using concrete stakes or similar method.  The slope distances measured are converted to vertical depths.  However, this won’t stand up well to cattle or elk traffic, and it is more liable to be vandalized if the reservoir has easy access.

Option For Pipe Flow – Seametrics Paddlewheel Meters

How do you measure flow in a pipeline?  The simplest

McCrometer Magnetic Meter

way is integrated, saddle-mounted propeller or magnetic meters.  For example, see the post on McCrometer magnetic flow meters:  Propeller meters look much the same.  Both mount through a hole cut in the pipeline, making them quick to install, and easy to remove for maintenance.  These meters can handle some sediment and still be accurate, although water with a lot of silt and sand wears out propellers faster. 

McCrometer Propeller Meter
Installing Propeller Meter



What about cost?  For integrated meters, the costs start at about $3,200 delivered, and go up with diameter.

If you want to spend the least amount of money and still have accurate flow

DL76W Wall-Mount Data Collector

measurement, a paddlewheel meter may be a good solution.  These can be integrated, or can be assembled from the meter, data collector,

IP800 Paddlewheel Meter

display, and possibly other parts.


For an idea of the cost, an IP 800 paddlewheel meter, FT450 display, and DL76 data collector for a small pipeline cost about $2,000 delivered. 

FT450 Data Display

That is about $1,200 cheaper than a magnetic meter for the same-sized pipeline.


So, why not always use a paddlewheel meter rather than more expensive magnetic or propeller meters?  Paddlewheels wear out faster if there is sediment in the pipeline.  I have seen installations where pumping from a muddy river wore out a paddlewheel

Saddle for Paddlewheel Meter

in a year, but a propeller meter lasted 3 years pumping from the same river before needing refurbishment.  The shaft and wheel can be replaced in the field, at a lower cost than propeller or magnetic meter refurbishment.  However, busy farmers and ranchers don’t have time to check the paddlewheel once or twice a year, so the meter installation is at a greater risk of losing data than a propeller or magnetic meter.

Paddlewheel Meter in Saddle

If you are brave or experienced enough, you could get a paddlewheel integrated with the data collector, and no external display.  This would get your delivered cost down to about $1,500.  Data needs to be downloaded more often, perhaps every 2 to 3 months, to ensure the meter is working correctly.  Also, the meter needs to be installed from the side, not the top, so more clearance is required to the side.

DL76 Data Collector Mounted on Paddlewheel Meter

Riparian Rules by Chuck Rich

An oldie but still the best summary of riparian rights that can fit on both sides of an 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper:

Riparian Rules by Chuck Rich, State Water Resources Control Board, 2007


  1. A riparian right exists by reason of ownership of land abutting upon a stream or body of water and affords no basis of right to use water upon nonriparian land.
  2. A parcel of land generally loses its riparian right when severed from the stream channel via a parcel split (i.e., “physical severance”) unless the right is specifically reserved for the severed parcel in the deed of transfer or other conveyance document. However, the California Supreme Court has held that where a physical severance has previously taken place, if the severed tract was receiving water from the creek at the same time the conveyance created the severance, that fact can be used in court to argue that the grantor and grantee did not intend any severance of riparian rights notwithstanding the physical severance, and the riparian right might be preserved as a result – if the court so decides. The riparian right also may be lost when transferred apart from the land by grant, contract, or condemnation. Once lost or severed, the riparian right can NEVER be restored.
  3. Riparian water right holders may only divert a share of the “natural streamflow” of water in the stream. “Natural streamflow” is the flow that occurs in a watercourse due to accretions from rainfall, snowmelt, springs and rising groundwater. To the extent that flow in its natural state reaches or flows through their property, riparian right holders have a proportional right, based on need, to the use of the natural flow.
  4. A riparian right does not allow diversion of water that is foreign to the stream source. Water that is: a) imported from another watershed; b) stored and subsequently released later in time into the stream system from upstream dams; or c) irrigation runoff generated from the application of percolating groundwater applied to upstream lands; is not available for diversion under a riparian claim of right.
  5. Water diverted under claim of riparian right may only be used on the parcel of land that abuts the stream – – unless the severed parcel’s riparian status has been somehow retained (see #2 above), and then only on that portion of the parcel that drains back into that portion of the stream from which the water was originally diverted.
  6. In order to divert water under claim of riparian right, the diverter must use the water on riparian land but need not own the land at the point of diversion. That is, the diversion may be made at a point upstream (or downstream) from the land being served so long as permission is granted to use that point of diversion and intervening land owners between the point of diversion and place of use are not adversely affected by such practice. However, water cannot be diverted upstream or downstream under a riparian claim of right if this water would not have reached the diverter’s land in the “natural” state of affairs. (In other words, the land is only riparian to the stream when the stream, in the natural state, would actually reach or touch the parcel in question.)
  7. Riparian rights are not lost by nonuse of the water.
  8. “Seasonal storage” of water cannot be accomplished under a riparian claim of right. “Seasonal storage” is generally defined as the collection of water during a period of excess flow for use during a period of deficient flow. However, water may be retained for strictly “regulatory” purposes. “Regulatory storage” of water means the direct diversion of water to a tank or reservoir in order that the water may be put to use shortly thereafter at a rate larger than the rate at which it could have been diverted continuously from its source. Regulatory ponds should generally be drained at the end of the season of use (e.g., irrigation season).
  9. If there is insufficient water for the reasonable, beneficial use requirements of all riparian owners, they must share the available supply. Apportionment is governed by various factors, including each owner’s reasonable requirements and uses. In the absence of mutual agreement, recourse to a determination in the Superior Court may be necessary.
  10. The riparian diverter is subject to the doctrine of reasonable use, which limits the use of water to that quantity reasonably required for beneficial purposes. The method of diversion and conveyance must also be reasonable and non-wasteful.
  11. A diverter who possesses a valid riparian claim of right does NOT need to obtain a permit from the State Water Resources Control Board for the act of diverting water. However, any alteration made to a natural channel in order to divert the water will probably require acquisition of a “streambed alteration agreement” from the Department of Fish and Game and may require a Section 404 Permit from the Army Corps of Engineers or a waste discharge requirement from the appropriate Regional Water Quality Control Board. Compliance is also required with any other local, state, or federal requirements regarding construction and operation of the diversion facilities.
  12. Water Code section 5100, et seq. requires that a “Statement of Water Diversion and Use” be filed with the Division for any diversion under riparian right if no other entity reports this use. As of 2007, there is no charge to file this document and forms are available upon request from the Division of Water Rights.