Solving Diverters' Headaches To Provide Peace Of Mind And Help Stay Out Of Trouble
Category: Measure It Right
Measure your water accurately so your diversion is defensible to your neighbors, the Water Board, state and federal agencies, and the Superior Court if it comes to that. Set yourself up for success the first time and your measurements will be easy.
A watermaster recently showed me a handy phone app
to calculate flows through your measurement device. Measure H2O works on iphones and android phones. I have used it for several devices – it’s quick and accurate. Just fill in the blanks and out pops the flow amount.
However, it is currently not available when I hunt for it in the phone app store. I don’t know why, I’ll see if I can find out.
Data needs to be collected at your diversion or reservoir at SB 88’s required intervals, whether monthly, weekly, daily or hourly. This could help you meet the need for monthly or weekly data, if you can visit the site that often.
Recording is the other half of measuring diversions from streams, under California’s new water diversion measurement and reporting regulations. Diverters are required by law to measure flows at frequencies based on the volume of water diverted in a year. The flow has to be measured and recorded. Of course diverters may not care about the data – it costs money and it doesn’t add income. What you and I want in all of our purchases is the best value for the money.
For very small diversions, flows have to be recorded weekly. That may be easy to do depending on the location and access to the diversion.
For medium-sized diversions, flows must be recorded daily. This is possible, but it doesn’t allow for the owner or employees to have time off, travel, and so on. At this level of recording, an automatic recorder of some type is necessary. Large diversions must be recorded hourly, and automatic recording is the only practical way to be sure flows are recorded. That is the subject of today’s post: automatic recording of flows, or what is really done most of the time, recording water levels and using equations to calculate the flow.
We will leave aside the discussion of propeller, acoustic Doppler, magnetic, and other in-line meters. If you have a diversion that goes through a long length of straight pipe, one of these devices can be bolted in or strapped on. This post is about open diversions into a ditch, where an instantaneous measurement device (weir, orifice, flume) already exists…or may be installed soon. These open devices do not measure flow directly, they measure the water level. An equation is used to convert that level to a flow.
There are hundreds of devices (ready to go) and components (connected parts) to measure water levels. There are also hundreds of loggers that collect data. Here, we will look at 4 water level sensors connected to data loggers, called water level loggers.
Onset has a neat Bluetooth Hobo water level logger. This may help to satisfy the Water Board’s telemetry requirements starting January 1, 2020; the data must be updated weekly on a website, and downloading data weekly is easier with this logger. We’ll see what the Water Board says as this rolls out. The MX-2001, with the cap removed, hooks up to the MX-2001-TOP with a cable, and once installed, is downloaded with the free Hobomobile smartphone app. The app does everything you’d normally need a data shuttle and cable for – starting, setup, configuration, downloading, and stopping the logger.
The top unit with the Bluetooth radio has to be out of the water, so of course the top of the stilling well holding the unit has to be 1.0 feet or higher up out of the water. If the stilling well is galvanized iron pipe, you’ll need to get within a few feet to download it. If you are using PVC you might get a connection at 100 feet.
Will two units close to each other interfere? Nope, the app finds both and lets the user choose which unit to work with. As with any water level logger installation, keep a logbook or spreadsheet with the Serial Numbers for each location so you aren’t confused later.
What about barometric pressure? The TOP unit records barometric pressure, so you don’t need a second unit for atmospheric pressure, nor do you have to know the elevation difference between two separated units. The unit subtracts atmospheric from absolute pressure, then gives you all 3 values when you download: absolute, atmospheric, water only. That makes data processing much easier.
In California, you should be able to get one of these shipped to you for $750. Compare that to the regular Hobos, which need one in the air, one in the water, and a data shuttle and cable. It would put you back almost $1,000 to get the separate pieces shipped to you. If you have two or more locations to log, then the old style is less expensive as far as parts go. Still, the Bluetooth version is likely more cost effective when you consider the minutes saved each time the Bluetooth unit is downloaded, compared to unlocking or unscrewing the cap, getting the water unit out, downloading it, and replacing the cap or lock.
The next is a setup that rancher and retired aircraft engineer Frank Crowe uses. Frank’s desire was to save him and his neighbors money, so he put together theVegetronixAqua-PlumbWater Level Sensor connected with theLogger-8-USB. Together these are $340, which is
the least cost of anything that I have seen. Add shipping, tax,
and $60 in other parts and batteries, and for $450 you’ll have the parts you n
eed for moderately durable, reliable, and accurate water level logger. Not only that, but the Logger-8-USB has 8 channels altogether, so a diverter could measure up to 8 water levels at once by adding 7 more sensors at $95 apiece, not including tax and shipping.
Here is Frank’s latest setup with his comments: “Finally was able to put together a prototype package for the Vegetronix sensor. The box is a little bigger than needed, but seems to work. I’m trying to get the data to download into something I can analyze, but it seems to work very stable.
The pipe is 3/4″ mounted to the box, with the sensor wire going down to about an inch from the bottom and then returns up over 12″, therefore doubling the sensitivity. The end is held by some wire at the moment, but would probably work better with a stainless steel spring. The top of the pipe is not sealed, but should be to keep the humidity out of the box. Of course if the data logger were in a separate box, the seal would not be necessary.
To exercise the thing, it is stuck into a 3″ pipe with a water drip going in and a drain at the bottom. The overflow hole is 13″ above the bottom.”
So, what is the trade-off? If you are handy, somewhat experienced with electronic components, and willing to spend some hours, you can set this up yourself. Frank can help a few of his neighbors, but he has his family and ranch requiring his time, too. Otherwise, it is going to cost a couple hundred dollars or so for someone to set this up for you. It needs to be checked, maintained, and adjusted more often than the integrated water level loggers, too, so the maintenance and downloading cost can be $50 to $100 per year if everything is working well.
Next, theOnset Hobo U20L-04 Water Level Loggeris $300 before shipping and tax. The DWR Groundwater folks I worked with for years, use these in groundwater wells. They are easy to set up – program one and place it in a stilling well. Take it out once or twice a year to download the data. The battery life is 5 years, maybe more.
Why aren’t these automatically the cheapest option?They may be the cheapest if a diverter has 2 diversions or more, or several neighbors are using the same Hobo U20L-04.However, they are not vented, meaning that as atmospheric pressure changes due to low pressure areas and storms, the device’s pressure reading will not be as accurate. Therefore Onset recommends having a second U20L-04 set up outside the water to measure the pressure change over time. The second device can be some miles away, so one outside calibration device could be used for several in the water within a 100-square-mile area.
What I heard from colleagues is that these did not last for 10 years, and often not for five years. Durability and reliability of a device are important for uninterrupted data, and therefore compliance with the Water Board’s regulations. The more often a device has to be replaced, the more it costs over time.
A download shuttle and cable are also required to get the data from the Hobo to your computer – delivered cost about $300. In summary, the delivered cost of two Onset Hobo U20L-04 devices and the download kit is about $1,000. This cost may be reduced somewhat if the cost of a calibration device can be shared between several diverters, or several diversions.
The third device discussed here is theGlobal Water WL-16. This is an integrated, vented device, designed to program and set in a pipe. Watermasters have used these for years at various diversions. The delivered cost is about $900.
The WL-16 has a stainless steel casing and is fairly tough. They should last a good 5 years. The problem is at the sensor end – it is relatively easy to clog up in warm-water conditions, with algae and/or silt. In cool flowing water, it might operate for the whole irrigation season. In warmer or still water, it will have to be checked and sprayed clean every 1 to 3 months. Watermasters have put the sensor ends in distilled water in baby-bottle bags, and rubber-banded the tops of the bags closed to keep the sensors clean for the entire irrigation season.
One other concern which I have not discussed with the manufacturer – the manual for the WL-16 was updated in 2009 and refers to Windows XP, not the current Windows 10. I am sure that a newer manual is sent out with the device when it is purchased. Overall, with some care to check the sensor end and clean it as necessary, this is a great drop-it-in-and-turn-it-on option.
The fifth water level logger discussed here is thePMC Versaline VL2111 – WLS-31Water Level Datalogger. This looks much like the WL-16, but instead of a silicon bladder at the end of sensor, it has a non-fouling ceramic sensor.At $1,370 before tax and shipping, it has the highest purchase cost of the 4 listed in this post, but it is my recommendation for durability, reliability, and low maintenance.
The Versaline is made for wastewater; in other words, for sewer lines. The datalogger end is vented and it is not supposed to be submerged, same as the Vegetronix components and the WL-16. However, it is made to put inside manholes where it is very warm and humid. The PMC guys have maintained the sensor end in rough environments with the equipment lasting 8 to 12 years. If the sensor gets completely covered with algae (or something worse), it still works. It can be cleaned off with a toothbrush if it seems so clogged it might prevent water from getting to the ceramic end. The data logger and sensor are fairly new but are improvements on the older, long-lived versions.
The VL2111 – WLS-31is three times the cost of the least-expensive option. However, it might be the least expensive in the long run…it sure is the most worry-free of all the options listed here!
Everyone knows we’re getting snow and rain well above average for today! Hopefully folks can take a day to celebrate before Valentine’s Day. After this we may be worried about floods; precipitation will be appreciated when the irrigation season starts.
Snow, compared to the April 1 average:
South: 98 percent
Central: 100 percent
North: 88 percent
Rainfall, compared to the average amount for today ( Feb. 13):
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.
How do you measure flow in a pipeline? The simplest
way is integrated, saddle-mounted propeller or magnetic meters. For example, see the post on McCrometer magnetic flow meters: https://allwaterrights.com/tag/inline-magnetic-flow-meter/. 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.
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
measurement, a paddlewheel meter may be a good solution. These can be integrated, or can be assembled from the meter, data collector,
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.
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
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.
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.
Do something wrong, rather than nothing at all. Have you ever heard that before? I have heard it from Army veterans, a boss, even an elder of a church. George Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” A non-military way to say that is, “A poor plan now is better than no plan at all.”
What it means to you and me is, if action is necessary, do something, maybe ANYthing, rather than freezing in place or ignoring a problem. This is obvious when you see a tornado 5 miles away, for example; either drive away from it if you are in a car, or take shelter if you are on foot. If you have a plumbing leak in the house and no parts to replace broken pipe, then put a bucket under it, or turn off the valve, and call a plumber. All of us have seen a TV show (or maybe had it happen to us) where the bad guy pointed a rifle and said, “Don’t move”. What do we all say to the TV? “Don’t just stand there, run!”. Doing nothing is a much worse choice, if the result for freezing in place is death or injury.
What about water rights – how does doing something wrong help? Everyone knows by now that surface water diverters need measurement devices, so put in a weir box and boards and measure your flow before the threats come from the Water Board, your watermaster, your ditch tender, or your neighbor. Even just stick horizontal boards in a ditch and seal the sides with plastic – something to take positive action to reduce future pain.
There is a philosophy based in law and a lot of experience, that says don’t put any controls on yourself until the court or government makes
you. Why remodel your house to accommodate the wiring or plumbing, if you aren’t selling the house and everything works okay right now? Who would put a lot of money into an old truck to make it pass smog, if it just might pass a smog check the next time it has to be done? What farmer would change how he irrigates or ranches if everything still operates and the bank will keep making operating loans?
All of the Water Board deadlines have passed to install measurement devices, or file Alternative Compliance Plans. If you haven’t got your device or plan done yet, get a Request For Additional Time done as soon as possible.
Be proactive. Take some inexpensive, temporary action. Educate yourself for free with some time in the Internet. Even a small, less-than-perfect improvement in your measurement device, flow and water use record keeping, can pay back a lot more when you have to deal with potential Water Board fines, a court case, or even just an angry neighbor in the future.
How can large diversions be measured? Long-throated flumes are a good option, especially if the ditch has low banks, or a lot of sediment or debris could clog a weir or orifice. Premanufactured Parshall or Replogle flumes go up to around 20 cubic feet per second (9,000 gallons per minute). If they are made for larger flows than that, they are prohibitively expensive to ship or manufacture.
Recently, though, Watchman long-throated flumes have become available. They are made in Northern California, so shipping costs are lower. They typically go up to 20 cubic feet per second in size, but I have installed a 30-cfs Watchman flume. The manufacturer can easily make larger-capacity flumes, too – standard plans go up to 60 cfs, and they can be shipped in ready-to-assemble sections for up to 200 cfs.
Watchman flumes are made of 10-gauge steel, a little thicker than 1/8 inch. The premanufactured flumes I have seen ship from outside the state are made of 16-gauge steel, which is about 1/16″ thick. These can work well if care is taken during installation, but the Watchman’s heavier gauge steel can withstand more backfill and rougher treatment. They’ll last longer, too.
What about cost? It turns out that Watchman flumes are about the same cost per cubic foot per second, as flumes made from lighter-gauge steel. Some farmers and ranchers like concrete better than steel. Watchman flumes can be built inside Briggs pre-cast concrete rice boxes and weir boxes, if you need an installation to last for 30 years or more.
Where can you buy these? The manufacturer does not advertise – let me know and I can put you in touch with them.
This is updated from a previous post, which was an example for a stream with adjudicated water rights. However, it also works for any stream where there are water rights with legally defined diversion quantities, if all the diverters have headgates in good condition and/or measurement devices such as weirs, flumes, and pipe meters.
Is John Stealing Water?? John Casey has a cattle ranch near Adin, where he grows pasture and hay to raise about 70 Angus steers. His ranch is 240 acres with lower irrigated land and forest on the higher part. He has an a licensed water right of 2.00 cubic feet per second (cfs) from Preacher Creek, to irrigate 80 acres, from April 1 to November 1.
John’s downstream neighbors claim he steals water. He says he can show that he takes only 2 cfs, or less when the flow drops down in the summer. Can he prove it?
As we can see, he has a square headgate at the head of his ditch. It is 2.0′ wide, and can open up to 1.5′ high. Right now, John says he is diverting 1.05 cfs. His evidence is that his gate is open 0.15′, the water is 0.57′ deep on the upstream side, and the water is 0.20′ deep on the downstream side. Is that enough to check what he says?
The box in which the gate sits has smooth walls, and the gate closes flush with the bottom when John is not diverting. The water continues in a straight path from upstream to downstream. That means the weir has “suppressed” sides.
This is in contrast with, for example, a hole cut in the middle of a 2″ x 12″ weir board. The water on the sides has to make the turn to go straight through, so the hole in the board is an example of a “contracted” orifice.
Let’s look at the tables for orifices in the back of the Water Measurement Manual. Table A9-3 is for submerged, suppressed weirs.
We can’t see the downstream side of the weir, but the water is above the bottom of the edge of the gate, so it is submerged rather than free-flowing.
This table has flows calculated for a minimum area of 2.0 square feet (sq. ft.). However, the area of the opening at John’s headgate is 2.0′ wide x 0.15′ high, or 0.30 sq. ft. Fortunately, the equation, Q=0.70A(2g Δh)^0.5, is listed right at the top of the table. We can calculate the flow using that. Q is the flow in cfs, A is the area of the orifice hole, g = the acceleration due to gravity, or 32.2 ft/second^2 (feet per second squared), and Δh is the difference between the upstream and downstream water depth.
So the flow Q = 0.70 x (2.0′ x 0.30′) x (2 x 32.2 x 0.37′)^0.5 = 1.03 cfs. So far so good – John is taking 52%, or just over half of his right when 100 percent of flows are available. But, how much flow is actually available right now?
Let’s use the “sum of the boxes” method. Instead of measuring the amount of water in Preacher Creek at the top, before any diversions, and then estimating how much flow is being lost to evaporation, transpiration, and infiltration, and then estimating how much flow is subsurface above John Casey’s ranch and “pops up” out of the ground below, we’ll look at what each diversion amount is, plus the amount still in the creek after the last diversion. This is very useful because none of the instream losses have to be estimated – we just add the diversions and flow still in the creek, and that amount IS the available supply.
Water Board Permits and Licenses are usually not interrelated – they specify water rights without considering the other water rights on the stream. This is different from adjudicated streams, whether done by the Water Board or the Department of Water Resources. Some Superior Court judges in past decades were pretty smart and actually ordered that available flows be calculated by the sum of the boxes:
The paragraph above, from the Susan River Decree, defines available water supply as what is being diverted, plus the flow passing the last diversion.
There are 4 diversions on Preacher Creek, and here are the amounts being diverted:
Diversion 1 (John Casey) 1.03 cfs of a 1.60 cfs water right, 52% of his total right
Diversion 2 (Amy Hoss) 1.67 cfs of a 3.80 cfs water right, 44% of her total right
Diversion 3 (Mark and Cindy Sample) 0.55 cfs of a 0.88 cfs water right, 62% of their total right
Diversion 4 (Quint and Marcie Minks) 1.32 cfs of a 2.50 cfs water right, 53% of his total right
Flow still in the creek past the Minks Diverison – Quint estimates about 0.7 cfs
The total diversion-plus-bypass flow is about 5.3 cfs. The total rights on the creek are 9.48 cfs. Therefore, the total available flow = 5.3 / 9.48 = 56%.
So, John is right, he is not stealing water! He is taking 52% of his water right, when he could be taking 56% according to the “sum of the boxes” method. Not only that, but Amy could take more, the Samples should reduce their diversion, and the Minks’s could take a tad more. Well, that’s theoretical – Quint and Marcie Minks probably cannot seal up their dam completely, so there may be a little bit less flow actually available for diversion.
Diverters and reservoir owners have been wondering, when is water level logger or meter data supposed to be filed with the Water Board? I checked with Jeff Yeazell, our public contact at the Water Board. Folks will be able to file data with their annual reports in 2019, so you’ll do it while you are already in the Report Management System to file your Reports of Licensee (due April 1) or Supplemental Statements (due July 1). The new forms will likely be available in January of 2019.
Jeff is a great guy, knowledgeable, very responsive, and easy to talk with, so you can be reassured you’ll get a response and most likely an answer if you contact him. His email is Jeffrey.Yeazell@waterboards.ca.gov and you can call him at (916) 341-5322.
The Water Board requires diversions and storage over 10 acre-feet per year to be recorded, per SB 88, other state laws, the California Water Code, and agency regulations. Data must be recorded monthly, weekly, daily, or hourly, depending on the size of the diversion or reservoir:
But we don’t live in a perfect world. Things will go wrong. Whether you record data by hand in a notebook, or a data collector records data electronically, data will get lost. Why not just use a notebook or phone camera? That works when the data collection interval is monthly, and might work for weekly.
However, if diversions are over 100 AF or storage is over 200 AF per year, data must be collected daily, and diversion or storage of 1,000 AF per year or more requires hourly data collection. That daily or hourly interval makes electronic data collectors of some kind a requirement to have the data and avoid those fines of possibly $500/day.
We’re all busy, so we have to make time to spend half a day or more downloading loggers 2 or 3 times each year. The leaves the possibility of data loss between the times data is downloaded. Why not download data once a month, or weekly? That’s not doable for ranchers and farmers who are already spending long days just to try and make a profit.
At some point, data will be lost. You could just use the last measured value for all the intervals that were lost, but in reality storage volumes change based on rainfall, evaporation, stock and wildlife use, and releases. Diversions change based on available flows in the stream and changes in irrigation, stockwater, or other uses at the place of use. Sometimes diversions are maxed out for a day or two for filling a ditch or flooding up, and other times they are shut off for haying or maintenance.
How will you tell the Water Board that data is lost, even though you did your level best to do everything rig
ht? Perhaps data was downloaded in February, June, and October…but the fields for February 15 through June 10 are blank.
As always, if you are behind the 8-Ball, communicate early and often. Jeff Yeazell is the public contact outside of the Delta, and Jeff is scrupulous about replying and hanging on to emails. If you’re really worried, include someone else in an email. Notice I said “email” and not “phone”. Phone calls are a lot more work on the receiving end, and information can get lost more easily.
Of course, also take extraordinary steps to recover the data. Maybe an expert can try a few things to get the data off the unit. You might have to send it to the manufacturer and see if they can download it.
Be diligent, check setups twice and three times, save downloaded data in 2 places immediately after downloading, download as often as you can, and otherwise be diligent and careful. In the end, though, data will be lost, but don’t panic. Communicate early, often, completely, and repetitively. Keep estimates or spot-check notes throughout the year, and use those to fill in gaps if you have to.