No Trouble Catching Up SB 88 Late & Drought Over

I forgot to mention in my last post on SB 88 compliance,, that you’re still okay if you comply with SB 88 now.  The Water Board is not issuing Cease And Desist Orders (CDO) or fines for folks who catch up now, even though it’s late.  This is true whether you have yet to install a measurement device, a data logger/recorder, or catch up your Reports Of Licensee or Supplemental Statements.  I have seen no adverse action for anyone I know, or clients of other consultants.  There are a couple of exceptions here:

  • You need to catch up before the Water Board contacts you.  By that time, you’re probably getting or about to get a CDO with 30 days to comply and report.
  • If you’re already being contacted, if you received a CDO, if the Water Board is issuing you an Administrative Civil Liability (ACL), if you’re headed to an ACL hearing, then you still need to comply as quickly as possible.  Your hassles and fines will not increased, or they may be significantly reduced, and you may still be able to stop the process before you get fined.

I don’t know what may happen in, say, 2020, for folks who have no data for 2018.  The same logic applies: get a data logger in and collecting data as soon as possible, and there might be no hassles even for missing data.

Start with a Request For Additional Time.  This is quick to fill out and buys you some instant grace.  Also, if you had extenuating circumstances like the Carr, Camp, or Mendocino Complex Fires, or other disasters, send an email to Jeff Yeazell, the Water Board’s Public Contact official outside of the Delta.  Jeff is very nice, and he is careful to respond back and to keep the emails he gets.

As always, explain in the Remarks and/or other text sections of your Reports Of Licensee or Supplemental Statements anything that helps explain your late compliance, and anything that shows even partial compliance.

And the best news right now is that the drought is over!



Hiding From The Water Board? Don’t Worry, Get Compliant

Are you hiding from the Water Board because your ditch or piped diversion does

Small Ditch In Meadow With No Measurement Device

not yet have a measurement device?  Give me a call at (530) 526-0134 –  you might find some workable answers in a 15-minute conversation that costs nothing.  You want to get on with the important things in your life and business, and my mission is to help you by solving diverters’ headaches to provide peace of mind, and help stay out of trouble.

The installation deadlines were January 1, 2017 through January 1, 2018.  Maybe you don’t want any more government oversight because you put up with a lot already.  You could be losing sleep over the potential large fines.  Or, what if you do install a device, and you worry that you will be in trouble and have to pay fines as soon as you report your new compliance with SB 88?  You might not know what needs to be done, and you’re worried it will cost you $15,000, or $20,000, or more.

You might be thinking that the Water Board is plenty busy, and you’re right.  The folks there are going through thousands of online forms for Measurement Methods, Alternative Compliance Plans, Reports Of Licensee and Supplemental Statements that have new measurement device information in the blanks, and Requests For Additional Time.  My guess is that it could take as long as 5 years before the enforcement staff get out to the most far-flung corners of the State…but it could be as soon as a year, depending on how the to-do pile is sorted.

Diversion Ditch Before Measurement Device Installed
Diversion Dam and Ditch Before Measurement Device Installed







Diversion Ditch Before Measurement Device Installed
Diversion Ditch Before Measurement Device Installed







Sure, some measurement devices have to be big to handle large diversions.  A direction of 20 cubic feet per second (9,000 gallons per minute) or more may require something like the first two flumes shown below.  The Parshall Flume shown below may be a $20,000 installation, but the Watchman Flume might only be an $8,000 installation.

As the diversion size decreases, the size and cost of the measurement device go down, too.  There may be a relatively temporary solution, like the pipe and board weir that costs only $1,000 or so including the water level logger if you do it yourself.  A larger, more permanent measurement device can be installed later.

New Watchman Flume In Medium Sized Ditch
New Parshall Flume
New 3-Foot Wide Briggs Mfg Concrete Weir
New McCrometer McPropeller Inline Meter With Data Collector





New Watchman Flume
New Montana Flume In Small Ditch






Temporary Pipe And Board Weir

Converting Logger Pressure to Depth & Storage/Flows

If you have a pipeline as part of your diversion, then an in-line meter with an integrated data collector can be installed.  The data files from these units are

McCrometer McPropeller inline meter with data collector

easily readable in Excel, and the files can be sent directly to the Water Board to meet the requirements of SB 88.

What if you don’t have a pipeline?  Then your flow needs to be measured in the open ditch with a weir, flume, or orifice.  These devices measure the flow but they don’t record the data.  To continuously record data, a submersible logging instrument must be used to measure the water pressure at the bottom of the box.  These logging instruments are commonly put into stilling wells that are inside or outside the measurement device.

Flume with attached stilling well for water level logger

How are water pressure logger measurements converted to diverted flows or reservoir storage?  Why does anyone even have to have an electronic pressure logger?  Onset ComputerPMCIn-Situ, , and other manufacturers sell data loggers and water level loggers, not pressure loggers, so why is this post talking about measuring pressures at all?

Bluetooth Hobo Logger, cabled to recorder and barometric compensator unit – least expensive option for a single location



Loggers record pressure, because that is the easiest physical attribute to measure.  A data logger in water does not know how deep it is, and it does not

 know how much flow is going by, or how much water is being stored in a reservoir.  Pressures relate directly to static (standing) water depths, and then equations convert the depths to flows, or to reservoir storage volumes.

How is pressure converted to depth?  It’s an easy calculation – water that is one foot deep has a pressure of 0.4335 psi at the bottom.  So, if your logger measures 1.60 psi, then the calculation to get depth is 1.60 psi / 0.4335 psi per foot = 3.69 feet of depth.

Note that water level loggers can be of two types.  The least expensive are completely submersible, and do not compensate for barometric pressure.  For an idea of  the readings of barometric pressure in a measurement device, a 2 foot deep logger records a pressure of 0.8670 psi.  Atmospheric pressure at sea level is about 14.7 psi, and high in the mountains may be 12.0 psi.  Air pressure is much greater than those measured in ditches.  Usually two of these loggers are used at once, one in the water, and one out of the water measuring only air pressure.  This also eliminates the variability in pressure due to weather changes.

Stilling well in a weir

The second type of data logger compensates for barometric pressure at the same time water pressure is being recorded.  That way, the water and air pressure data sets do not have to be combined before conversion to depths.  These loggers were always more expensive until the Bluetooth Hobo water level logger came along; as of February 2019 I found that it is the least expensive option for a single location.

Now that you can calculate any depth, how do you convert depths to reservoir storage?  That requires an Area-Capacity curve, also known as an Elevation-Storage curve.  The points can be picked off the curve.  For example, in the curve below, a depth of 8.5 feet would correspond to an elevation of 2,802.5 feet, and a reservoir storage volume of 30 acre-feet.

An owner of a reservoir with a capacity over 10 acre-feet must collect monthly storage values.  That’s easily done by hand.  However, a reservoir with a capacity of 50 AF requires weekly measurement; over 200 AF requires daily measurement; and over 1,000 AF requires hourly measurement.  That is really tedious to do by hand.

This is where an Excel spreadsheet can make the task a whole lot easier!  The spreadsheets shown below are just for this.  The first sheet helps translate a graph into a table of elevations and storage volumes.  The second sheet translates collected pressure values into depth and storage values, for as many data points as needed.

For diversion ditches from a stream, how are pressures converted to flows?  The logger is in a stilling well, usually a pipe connected to the inside or outside wall of the weir, flume, or orifice.  It measures pressure, which is easily converted to depths.

As with reservoirs, Excel spreadsheets make the conversion process a whole lot easier.  The sheets below have the rating curve for a suppressed weir, and the second sheet converts pressure to actual water depths over the weir boards.  Even for thousands of hourly readings, the hourly flow volumes are quickly calculated and are ready to send to the Water Board: 


Maybe: Measure H2O Phone App By USBR

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.



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

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.swrcb_flow_meas_frequency-edited

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.

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…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 retiraqua-plumbed aircraft engineer Frank Crowe uses.  Frank’s desire was to save him and his neighbors money, so he put together 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.  Add shipping, tax, logger-8-usb
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_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.

Next, 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 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 onset_u20l-xx_handhelda 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 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.  The delivered cost is about $900.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 fifth water level logger discussed here is the PMC Versaline VL2111 – 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 VL2111 – 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!

Heavy Snow & Rain For Valentine’s Day

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):

  • South:  119 percent
  • Central:  118 percent
  • North:  106 percent



How to Divide Up a Decreed Water Right

Back in 2005, Arnold and Eileen Williamson bought property near South Cow Creek in Shasta County.  They live in San Bernardino and plan to retire early, and build a new house on their land.  The parcel is part of an old ranch just off Highway 44.

The Williamsons paid $220,000 for the 3.55 acre lot.  That seemed high compared to similar parcels in the area, but they were assured the land has adjudicated water rights from South Cow Creek.

Arnold and Eileen brought their travel trailer to live on the land while they are building a new house.  Their savings account is in good shape so they are going to build a nice 2,200 square foot, single story ranch house with a garage and a shop.  They talked to a well driller 10 years ago and he assured them it would be easy to put in a well, for a cost of around $18,000.Williamson_Overview

When Arnold and Eileen went to get a permit to drill a well, they ran into unexpected problems.  Parcels on either side have their septic systems close to the common property lines, so their possible well locations are few.  Maybe a bigger issue is the passage of the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act in 2014.  Will their pumping rate be limited, and will their well-drilling permit application get held up?

Now the Williamsons are checking into their surface water right.  Is it enough for some pasture for horses and a few cows, in addition to the house and garden?  The Turings who live on the east side say there are no water rights.  The Poulans, to the west, say they have lived here for 6 years and they have never had water – they think the water right was bought off the place, or lost because of non-use.Williamsons_and_neighbors  Now the Williamsons are upset and headed toward just plain mad.  The real estate agent said they had rights, and didn’t the title companies insure it??  After a few frantic calls, they found out that title companies don’t insure water rights.  But, their realtor gave them the number of some folks over on the north side of the highway, and they have a “decree map”.  Arnold and Eileen head over to the Winters’ place to look over the maps.  Brad and Jenny Winters even have a web address where the decree and maps can be downloaded:  The Water Board’s web page has the decree, but no maps:


It turns out that the Cow Creek adjudication does not have maps, but an engineering report done a few years before the decree was issued does have the maps.  Brad and Jenny have that report, too, so they have Sheets 1 through 5 showing the “Diversions And Irrigated Lands” on Cow Creek.  Besides that, they have the link to where they can get the South Cow Creek decree, and a link to a blog that has the maps not on the Water Board’s web site:  Sheet 5 covers the area including the Winters and Williamson places.  Sheet 5 has a lot of “irrigated lands”Leggett_Focus_Area according to the legend – the green areas.

By looking at the maps, and their Assessor Parcel Map they have in their escrow package, it sure looks like their property is completely within the green area.  Great!  Now, how do they figure out if they actually have a water right?

Arnold and Eileen wonder, can they figure this out themselves?  Brad and Jenny tell them, they sure can, and there is a document online that explains how to do it:  They take a look at it and see that, yes, the document fully explains the process, but it requires having either AutoCAD or GIS software.  Also, it will take deep familiarity with the decree – and it is starting to look like a 3-day job just to understand it enough for their parcel!  Arnold and Eileen don’t have the software or experience, so they decide it’s not worth their time to learn this…and they are not sure if they can do it right.

AP_Map_59-98_croppedAfter asking around, Arnold and Eileen figure out they will need to see an attorney.  They call around and find out there are a couple of engineering companies that can see them faster, and they might cost less.  They picked Rights To Water Engineering to help figure out their water rights.  Within a couple of weeks, they have a nice report in their hands and answers to their questions.  So what did they find out?  The map below is one of several from the report they got from the engineer, showing their property boundary on the 1965 decree map of irrigated lands:Ex_2_Williamson_Parcel_Outline_on_DecreeMap_reduced

The report cost $1,500.  The engineer warns them that if it gets contentious and they can’t work out access to the water with their neighbors, they may end up having to get legal help.  He recommends a couple of local water rights attorneys if it comes to that – there are some good lawyers who specialize in in water rights.  For now, though, they have documentation they can discuss with their neighbors to work on getting their water right to their property.

Their property is on land that back in 1968 belonged to Howard and Gladys Leggett.  It has an adjudicated second priority water right for irrigation equal to 0.063 cubic feet per second, or 28.5 gallons per minute, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week, from March through October.   This 2nd priority right is less than the second and third priorities on the upper creek and tributaries, but it is the highest irrigation priority on the lower creek.  Back when the property was flooded, that was usually enough to flood irrigate their entire lot to grow pasture or hay.  That’s great news!

As natural flows drop during the summer that amount is reduced and everyone with a lower creek second priority has to reduce their diversion by the same percentage.  In normal and wet years they could keep their pasture, hay, or whatever else they plant, irrigated for most or all of the irrigation season.  And whether or not they use the water, the right does stay with the land and protect their property value; there is no provision for the expiration of water rights in the decree (the same as for nearly all surface water rights decrees).

What else was in their report?  There was a cover letter, and next some excerpts from the decree.  Schedule 1 lists the places of use for all the original owners.  The Leggetts’ description takes up most of page 60; the Williamson’s property is on the 69.8 acres listed in the second paragraph for the Leggett land:



Schedule 2 lists all the points of diversion, whether gravity diversions or pumps.  The Leggett property actually could get water from two diversions, a pump from the creek, and a proposed second, movable diversion on the creek.  That’s convenient – per the decree they could already divert their water from someone else’s existing diversion, or pump their water from Diversion 95, or they could get it from anywhere they can get agreement from the landowner!SCow_Sched2_Leggett_Points_Of_Diversion


Schedule 6 lists the water rights for Lower Cow Creek – other schedules have rights for the upper creek and tributaries.  This is interesting: there are four priorities of rights and this part of the Leggetts’ property has


 a 1st and a 2nd priority right.  What does that mean exactly?  The decree explains that 1st priority rights are domestic – houses and gardens.  It’s a very small right and it is not clear whether or how it should be divided up among the all the subdivided parcels that used to be the Leggett ranch.  The engineer noted it in the cover letter.

How was the water right calculated for the Williamsons?  Using a geographic information system, or GIS, the engineer used his training and years of experience to precisely overlay the Assessor Parcel Map on the decree map.  Then he measured the acreage for both, and prorated the water right by area.  The following screenshots of the Excel spreadsheet shows these calculations.




Time to fess up: this was a water right subdivision of a fictitious, made-up parcel of land, and the Williamsons don’t actually own it.  However, this story is one that happens every day, when a landowner asks “How much is my water right, really?  Can I divert for hay, stock, pasture, wildlife habitat, crops not mentioned in the decree, an orchard, ……… ?”  Having information before arguing with neighbors, seeing attorneys, sending legal letters, and going to court, can help smart people who generally have good relationships work out happy and agreeable solutions.  The Williamsons were smart and talked politely with their neighbors, the Turings and Poulens and Winters’s.  Now they have a good basis to live peacefully in their neighborhood for many years, and Arnold can borrow Charlie’s lawnmower until he gets his own.