Can a water right be lost?

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 cannot be lost – 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 a crop, pasture with cattle, 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, and they are discussed in greater detail in the post Riparian Rules by Chuck Rich.

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.

What if a water right is managed by a water district, irrigation district, or other agency?  It boils down to, who owns the water rights?  If the district or agency owns them, then they can usually reassign them because of non-payment, and for some other reasons, too.  If the landowners own the water rights, then all the preceding paragraphs of this post apply.  The agency or district just wheels the water, for which they can collect fees for operation (labor) and maintenance if their bylaws allow.

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.

File Logger And Meter Data In 2019, With Annual Reports

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.

https://public.waterboards.ca.gov/WRInfo/ :

Upcoming AB 589 Self-Certification Courses, end of June through August!

I promised to post more information on AB 589 Self-Certification course dates…and then I did not find out where the web page with the list of dates is.    Thanks to Jenn Koch from the U.C.’s Woodland office, we have some course dates.  By the way, I took the course, and it is very well done by Dr. Khaled Bali, Larry Forero and Allan Fulton from the UC Cooperative Extension:

  1. June 29 (AM Training) UCCE- Humboldt County-(Eureka)

  2. June 29 (PM Training) UCCE- Trinity County-(Hayfork)

  3. July 9    UCCE- Modoc County (Cedarville)

  4. July 10  UCCE- Siskiyou County (Yreka)

  5. July 11  UCCE- Yolo County (Davis) – NOTE, location on AB 589 web page is incorrect

  6. August 29 UCCE- Plumas/Sierra Counties (Taylorsville)

  7. August 30 UCCE- Glenn County (Elk Creek)

[Update/Repost] Do Something Wrong, Instead Of Nothing!

Do something wrong, rather than nothing at all. Have you ever heard that before? I have heard it from Army veteran friends, a boss, even an elder of a church.

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 a bad guy or an enemy 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!

Man working in ditch CostaDisc2-129 - EditedWhat 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 try to measure flow if the Water Board, your watermaster, or your neighbor is promising painful consequences. Even stick boards in a ditch and seal the sides with gravel – something to take positive action to reduce future pain.

Take a look at the blog posts here.  There is enough information and how-to directions, that you might be able to do it right!  Check out these posts:

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? 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?

Surface water and groundwater are getting 10 50 times the attention they were prior to 2009. If the Water Board, or California Fish and Wildlife, or any other agency comes along, do something, anything, to comply sooner, even if it’s not the ultimate solution. Two posts ago, bureaucrats were discussed – they are still human beings and most people appreciate some effort to “get with the program”.

Be proactive, take some inexpensive 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, diversion practices, or acreening, can pay back a lot more when you have to deal with agencies, a court, or an angry neighbor in the future.

You Can Be Your Own Qualified Individual For Diversions! AB 589 Passed October 4 – Training Coming Soon

Good news for folks who want to install, certify, measure and maintain their own devices!  AB 589 passed on October 4, and now any landowner, or their lessee or employee, can take the class and do all the required stuff to measure and record his own diversion flows / volumes.

I have not heard what the class dates might be, or whether it is online, and so on.  As soon as I do, I will sure put the word out there.  Meanwhile, let’s hope for another wetter-than-average winter – abundant water solves most of the demand issues.

 

Assembly Bill No. 589

CHAPTER 471

An act to add and repeal Section 1841.5 to, the Water Code, relating to water rights.

[ Approved by Governor  October 04, 2017. Filed with Secretary of State  October 04, 2017. ]

LEGISLATIVE COUNSEL’S DIGEST

AB 589, Bigelow. Water diversion: monitoring and reporting: University of California Cooperative Extension.

Existing law requires a person who diverts 10 acre-feet of water or more per year under a permit or license to install and maintain a device or employ a method capable of measuring the rate of direct diversion, rate of collection to storage, and rate of withdrawal or release from storage, as specified and with certain exceptions. Existing law requires the measurements to be made using the best available technologies and best professional practices using a device or methods satisfactory to the State Water Resources Control Board. Existing law requires a permittee or licensee to demonstrate to the board at 5-year intervals that a measuring device is functioning properly, as specified.

Existing law authorizes the board to adopt regulations requiring measurement and reporting of water diversion and use by persons including, but not limited to, those authorized to appropriate water under a permit, license, or registration for small irrigation use or livestock stockpond use, or a certification for livestock stockpond use.

This bill, until January 1, 2023, would require any diverter, as defined, who has completed an instructional course regarding the devices or measurement method administered by the University of California Cooperative Extension, including passage of a proficiency test before the completion of the course, to be considered a qualified individual when installing and maintaining devices or implementing methods of measurement that were taught in the course for the diverter’s diversion. The bill would require the University of California Cooperative Extension and the board to develop the curriculum of the course and the proficiency test.

Vote: majority   Appropriation: no   Fiscal Committee: yes   Local Program: no

 

THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF CALIFORNIA DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS:

SECTION 1.

Section 1841.5 is added to the Water Code, to read:

1841.5.

(a) For the purposes of a device installed pursuant to Section 1840 or 1841 or a method of measurement proposed and adopted pursuant to Section 934 or 935 of Title 23 of the California Code of Regulations, any diverter who has completed an instructional course regarding the devices or measurement method included in the course administered by the University of California Cooperative Extension, including passage of a proficiency test before the completion of the course, shall be considered a qualified individual when installing and maintaining devices or implementing methods of measurement that were taught in the course for the diverter’s diversion. The proficiency test shall seek to certify that the diverter has a satisfactory understanding of the principles of measurement and the use of a measurement method included in the course or the installation of a device. The University of California Cooperative Extension and the board shall develop the curriculum of the course and the proficiency test. The University of California Cooperative Extension and the board shall ensure the course curriculum and the proficiency test do not conflict with any state licensing acts.

(b) For purposes of this section, “diverter” means an individual authorized to divert water under a valid water right, a lessee of property that is subject to a water right who is acting as a representative of the water right holder, or a bona fide employee of the water right holder or lessee.

(c) This section shall remain in effect only until January 1, 2023, and as of that date is repealed, unless a later enacted statute that is enacted before January 1, 2023, deletes or extends that date.

Alternative Compliance Plans – First Batch Is Online

Many people have asked about Alternative Compliance Plans filed with the Water Board.  Have any been approved?  Do I have any feedback regarding the ones I filed?  What will work, and what won’t?

In short, I have heard nothing from the Water Board, so I have no answers.  However, the Water Board has started posting them online.  See the screenshot below – I erased the water right holders’ names, you can see them and download them at the web page.

Water Board Letters, Reducing Or Denying Additional Time / Alt. Comply Plans Being Reviewed

Many diverters or pond owners are getting letters like the one shown below, reducing or denying a Request For Additional Time.  The letter looks threatening, because that is how letters from regulatory agencies (bureaucracies) have to look.  Keep in mind that the Water Board won’t start issuing fines the day after the deadline.  Usually what happens next is a 30-day letter to cease and desist, or correct a deficiency, or face fines of $500 per day.

What should you do?

On August 10, 2017, I sent Kathy an email asking about Alternative Compliance Plans for diversions in closed basins:

“Hi Kathy,

I have a client whose water rights are all in one closed basin.  This owner owns all the lands where the water flows, either naturally, or when diverted from streams.  The end effect is, whether the diverter actually diverts or not, all the water ends up only on his land.

There are reservoirs involved.  The water rights could be in the range of 5,000 to 10,000 AF.

The argument is, since nobody else is or could be affected, there is no benefit to the State of measuring this water.

What are your thoughts on Alternative Compliance Plan for every water right on the ranch?  Would the Water Board put this on the bottom of the pile for places to look at, or toward the top?

Thank you,

Shawn”

Kathy’s answer was:

“Hi Shawn –

The measurement regulation does not have an exception from measurement based on location of the water source.  Any alternative compliance plan would need to identify the proposed measurement frequency and proposed measurement methodology.  It would also need to include an explanation and substantiating documentation of alternative compliance.  Absent substantiation of the specific basis for reduced performance standards, the plan must state how compliance with the measurement regulation will be achieved.  You ask for my thoughts on submitting an alternative compliance plan for each of the ranch water rights.  You should only submit plans which satisfy the regulatory standards. 

You ask whether the Division would put this on the bottom of the pile of items to look at.  Jeff and I have been actively looking at the alternative compliance plans submitted thus far.  We coordinate our actions with Lily.  We are actively evaluating the plans because we feel an obligation to let people know how they have done with their proposals. 

Kathy Mrowka”

Unique Weir Installation

I am glad to be getting measuring devices and data loggers installed – it is enjoyable work and diverters are getting peace of mind.  All of my work is confidential so clients’ names won’t be mentioned without permission.  That being said, a few projects can be discussed here.

This is a unique weir installation – it is doing two things at once.  Two 4′ wide weirs are side by side, set on a leveled, compacted base of 3/4″ minus road base.

First, it has a splitter built in as part of the weir – see the low wall behind me.  Two water rights are precisely split inside the weir itself so each user gets the correct amount.

Second, it is a double weir.  The ditch has low banks, but around 10 cfs needs to be accurately measured.  Weirs ideally pass a maximum of 1 cfs per foot of width, so this exceeds that by 25%, while still keeping the water inside the ditch.  So, why use weirs instead of a flume, which can pass much more flow per foot of width?  Weirs are better understood in this area, the ditch has adequate width, and it makes splitting the flows easier.

A plate metal wall splits the 2 weirs into 3.  Board slots were added with angle iron…you can guess from the photo that the iron lengths had to be cut down a bit for a 1-board, 2″ x 12″ weir.

 

 

Board slots had to be bolted on both sides of the plate steel.  My friend Bob, owner of B & J Welding & Machine, Inc. in Anderson, cut, welded and drilled the plate steel wall.

A water level logger sits at the back of the shared weir walls, and records hourly water levels 24 x 7 x 365.  Vandalism is a concern so the logger is locked up, and only the owner and I can get in.

1/4″ thick plate metal wingwalls upstream and downstream protect against flow working its way around the sides.  The wingwalls add stability, keeping the weirs from tipping sideways or tilting up- or downstream.

The final result is s solid, long-lasting installation that meets the requirements of SB 88!

Some Notes From May 24 RCD / CFB SB 88 Workshop In Red Bluff

Yesterday, Thursday May 24, The Resource Conservation District of Tehama County and the Tehama County Farm Bureau held an SB 88 workshop, explaining requirements and methods for measuring and reporting on stockponds and surface water diversions.  Kirk Wilbur of California Cattlemen gave the best explanation I have ever seen on the regulations, what they mean, and how to comply.

I discussed measurement devices and water level loggers, installations, and some Board forms.  Here are some really rough notes that I will edit and add to later:

Types of water flow measurement devices

  • Weir – water level – Showed model of weir with boards
    • With Stilling Well for water level logger
  • Orifice – upstream AND downstream water level – Showed model of weir with boards, configured as orifice
  • Flume – water level – Showed 2 sheet-metal models, one for 0.9 cfs, one for 1.8 cfs
  • Pipe Meter (magnetic or propeller) – velocity
  • Acoustic Doppler – velocity
  • Rated Section, earth or lined – elevation vs. flow
  • Staff gage – elevation
  • Pressure transducer, ALL BATTERY POWERED – depth – Showed 2 types: Hobo and PMC data logger

Typical Installations

  • Weir – poured, pre-fab, conversion of gate, T-post and boards for temporary
    • Weir in ditch
    • Splitter weir
  • Orifice – can use weir box, boards, steel plate
  • Flume – poured, pre-fab, WinFlume built in concrete lined ditch
  • Pipe Meter (magnetic or propeller) – 4” – 12” bolt on existing pipe, 12” and larger, replace section of pipe
  • Acoustic Doppler
    • ditch – Sontek IQ on bottom or Side Looker at side
    • pipe – Sontek IQ, Panametric, other
  • Rated Section, earth or lined – elevation vs. flow, requires engineer/hydrologist to measure each flow and develop a rating table and curve
  • Staff gage – elevation only, goes WITH a measurement device
  • Pressure transducer – depth only, Volume WITH area-capacity / elevation storage curve, or WITH measurement device.

Strategies for Success with the Water Board

  • CALL them, get to know Kathy Mrowka, head of the Enforcement Program, or Jeff Yeazell, the public contact for non-Delta issues.
  • EMAIL them about the compliance steps you are taking.
  • INVITE THEM to your place. Showing a green staffer how a ranch or farm really works gives them context.
  • CHAIN OF COMMAND – this always works in bureaucracies! If you make it a pain for the boss, you are more likely to be heard or get leniency.
  • NEGOTIATE – laws are laws, regulations are regulations, and there are always exceptions, waivers, and so on.
  • DON’T DIG IN YOUR HEELS – Water Board folks are human and they are likely to direct their attention to someone who they are mad at.

Alternative Compliance – Water Board survey on web page

  • Not approved, denied, or evaluated
  • Will be public and can be reviewed, questioned, or criticized by anyone
  • May be “audited”, as Kathy Mrowka just told me a couple of weeks ago.
  • Estimate pond evaporation – CIMIS
  • No guarantee an ACP will not be protested
  • Varying risk of protest based on situation – higher risk factors
    • Does the stream have salmon or trout?
    • Are there other threatened, or endangered species?
    • Is the diversion or pond large?
    • Is access easy?
    • Is there a definite diversion channel?

Alternative Compliance Plans – Reasons I have used:

  • PART OF A YEAR, for a diversion or pond, if a pressure transducer needs to be removed to keep it from freezing.
  • A diversion that is not going to be used for up to 4 years, if it is blocked off with an iron plate or concrete plug.
  • Hydro plant, using power converted to flow
  • Ponds that have no gated outlets, and are not filled or drained by human action. These can only spill over uncontrolled spillway.
  • Ponds that have been in place for decades. They are part of the landscape, necessary for cattle and other ranching, and criticial for wildlife, waterfowl, and perhaps fish.
  • Ponds that are strictly for dry-land farming. If there are no diversions on a ranch, the ponds are all there is.
  • Ponds that have a low total amount of storage for the size of a ranch. For example, 6 ponds totaling 110 acre-feet for a 2,500-acre ranch.  The ponds are only used for stock and/or wildlife water and no irrigation.
  • A pond larger than 100 acre-feet, which has a creek running through it that never dries, and no water is diverted from the pond, so it is always full. Collecting data would provide zero new information – zero benefit, so any measurement cost is infinite relative to the cost.

Request For Additional Time

  • Up to 24 months
  • Need good reasons
  • Easy to file

Request For Additional Time – Reasons I have used:

  • The Water Board did not get the word out well, especially if my client never got a letter from the Board.
  • A parent who ran the ranch passed away.
  • 2016 was an extremely wet winter and spring, making access difficult until June, July, or later.
  • By mid-season, farmers and ranchers are in the middle of long days, leaving no time to put in a measurement device.
  • My client is investigating water efficiency, possibly an NRCS EQIP grant, and this would change the plan for a measurement device.

How Do You Record Diversions? Water Level Loggers, Value Vs. Costs

Recording is the other half of measuring diversions from streams, under the law per SB 88, and per the Water Board‘s 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 many diverters don’t need the data – it costs money and it doesn’t add income…unless a farm or ranch is upgrading for efficiency or to increase acreage  What you and I want in all of our purchases is the best value for the money.

We’ll look at 5 different water level logging options.  The total cost given does not include installation – that adds $200 and up.  Certification for the logger and the measurement device itself, by a professional, required for all but the smallest diversions, costs $300 and up if you have Rights To Water Engineering do the work.

  1. Vegetronix Aqua-Plumb Water Level Sensor connected with the Logger-8-USB  ($400 per diversion, less if diversions are very close to one another – with tax and shipping, about $500 per diversion)
  2. Onset Hobo U20L-04 Water Level Logger  ($600, less for multiple diversions; with tax, shipping, and data shuttle, about $1,050 for the one diversion, $1,400 for two….)
  3. Global Water WL-16  ($1,000; with with tax, shipping, and cable, about $1,450 per diversion)
  4. In-Situ Rugged Troll 200 Data Logger and Tube 300 Telemetry System ($1,200 – less for multiple diversions, plus $1,300 for each telemetered diversion.  With tax, shipping, and cable, about $1,600 per diversion, and with telemetry and add-ons, about $3,300 for one diversion)
  5. PMC Versaline VL4511 – WLS-31 ($1,370 per diversion; with the cable, tax, and shipping, about $1,800 per diversion)

This is a long post since it is hard to summarize something this technical so here is the bottom line:  my top recommendation is the last of five in this post – for most diverters.

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

For very small diversions, flows have to be recorded monthly or weekly.  That is easy to do as long as someone goes to the diversion at least once a week.

WaterLevelLogger_wl300_1
Photo credit: globalw.com

Shawn_Sticking_WeirFor 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.

About_1.4_cfs_over_weir_edited_smallWe 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.  These open devices do not measure flow directly, they measure the water level.  An equation is used to convert levels to flows after data is downloaded.

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 5 water level sensors connected to data loggers, called water level loggers.

 

THE FIRST is a setup that rancher and retiraqua-plumbed aircraft engineer Frank Crowe has been working on.  Frank’s desire is to save him and his neighbors money, so he has been working with the Vegetronix Aqua-Plumb Water Level Sensor connected with the Logger-8-USB.  Together these are $340, which is
the least cost of anything that I have seen.   With this you will have all thelogger-8-usb
parts you need 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.  Wiith tax and shipping, this costs about $500 per diversion)

Here is Frank’s latest setup with his comments:  “Finally was able to put together a prototype package for the vegetronix_frank_1_p1300077vegetronix_frank_2_p1300078Vegetronix 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.

 

SECOND, the Onset Hobo U20L-04 Water Level Logger is $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 dowonset_hobo_u20l-04-editednload 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 3 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 300-square-mile area.

What I heard from colleagues is that these did not last for 10 years, and sometimes not for five years, although the device is being improved over time.  Durability and reliability of a device are important for uninterrupted data, and therefore compliance with the Water Board’s regulations.  The more often onset_u20l-xx_handhelda device has to be replaced, the more it costs over time.

In summary, the cost of Onset Hobo U20L-04 devices is $600. This cost may be reduced somewhat if the cost of a calibration device can be shared between several diverters, or several diversions.  With tax, shipping, and data shuttle, the delivered cost for all parts is about $1,050 for the one diversion, $1,400 for two….)

 

THE THIRD device discussed here is the Global 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.global_water_wl16-edited

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-16globalwater_wl16_in_field 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 cost for a WL-16 is $1,000; with with tax, shipping, and cable, about $1,450 per diversion.

 

THE FOURTH device, the In-Situ Troll, has the advantage of out-of-the-box options for telemetry.  The Groundwater folks at the Department of Water Resources have used these and a couple recommend these for the right application.  The In-Situ

in-situ_rugged_troll_200_loggerRugged Troll 200 Data Logger and Tube 300 Telemetry System.

The Troll 200 Data Logger can run independently without telemetry, or be attached to the Tube 300R Telemetry System.  The Troll 200 is non-vented, so like the Onset Hobo data loggers mentioned above, an extra unit is needed for air pressure to correct the water level (pressure) recorded by the unit in the water.

The total unit cost for 2 Troll 200s, a Tube 300R, and accessories, is about $2,900.  This is not cheap, but it is a lot less than a full-on gaging station with satellite radio, which costs $12,000 and up for components, and over $2,000 to install in easy locations.  Telemetry is expensive, there is no way of getting around that fact.  In summary, the cost for 2 Troll 200s is $1,200 to log a diversion – each additional, nearby diversion costs only another $600.  Telemetry addes $1,300 to the cost of parts for each telemetered diversion.  With tax, shipping, and cable, using Troll 200s costs about $1,600 per diversion, and with the Tube 300R telemetry and add-ons, the total parts cost is about $3,500 for one diversion)

The Tube 300R requires a separate phone number for each water in-situ_tube_300r_telemetrylevel logger, and cell service.  In-Situ offers the option of $35/month web hosting, on its HydroVu Cloud Data Services Plan.  This cost is in addition to the Tube 300R, cell phone service, and installation.

 

THE FIFTH and final water level logger discussed here is the PMC Versaline VL4511 – WLS-31 Water 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 VL4511 – WLS-31 is 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!  In summary, the VL4511 – WLS-31 costs about $1,370 per diversion; with the cable, tax, and shipping, about $1,800 per diversion.pmc_header-editedversaline-vl4511-and-wls-31-water-level-datalogger-specs-editedThere are many, many choices for logging water levels.  These are the ones I would install, either because I, my colleagues at DWR, or larger farms or ranches have used them; or because I have checked with other users.  One of these choices can serve you well!

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