But What About MY Water Right? I Don’t Care About Someone Else’s.

Senior Rights
  Water Rights Certificate. Photo: Los Angeles Daily News

Do you have a water right?  Then that is the one you care about.  General information is interesting, but not too useful or relevant.  When it comes down to it, your water right is the one you have to understand eight ways from
Sunday, and your water right is the one you have to defend.

But look at rights from another angle.  What rights do we as citizens of the United States all have, that we all really need to know?  Every U.S. citizen wants to be able to say what he wants, go to church or not, and attend political and protest meetings.  Where does it say that the federal government cannot prohibit or compel certain speech, church participation, and attend political meetings?

Of course you know that these rights are protected by the Bill of Rights, the first 10 amendments to the U.S. Constitution.  Most of us learned this before we got

Free Speech Protest. Photo Credit: educationviews.org

to high school.  482 short words protect your and my freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and petition; right to keep and bear arms; right not to be forced to quarter soldiers; freedom from unreasonable searches and seizures; right to due process of law, freedom from self-incrimination, freedom from being tried twice for the same allegation; rights of accused persons, (speedy and public trial); right of trial by jury in civil cases; freedom from excessive bail, cruel and unusual punishments; other rights of the people; powers reserved to the states.

Imagine having your house searched and not knowing what rights protect you.  How could you demand that soldiers do not forcibly enter your home, without

Warrant Sign, Photo Credit: 24hourbrowardbailbonds.com
Warrant Sign, Photo Credit: 24hourbrowardbailbonds.com

any knowledge of the 3rd Amendment?  Or, imagine being arrested during a traffic stop because you refused to let police search your vehicle.  What if you didn’t know anything about the 4th Amendment, which protects you against unreasonable searches and seizures?  How quickly life, liberty, and property can be lost when the accused does not know his or her constitutional rights!

How does this relate to water rights?  Who knows, you or one of your family might buy land with a different kind of water right.  If you have a summary understanding of water rights, you’ll be in a lot better place to know what the right is worth, how much water you might really get, and when.  What if an attorney or a government agency tells you that your property lost its water right – how could you even know you have an argument without some basic understanding?  Even when landowners get legal help, it can be pretty expensive…where knowing in advance could save hassle, time, and money.

One of my earlier posts has a bullet list that can be memorized, or printed on a card for a wallet or purse:

  1. Riparian – a parcel that touches a stream, spring or lake may use a ” reasonable and beneficial” amount, quantity and rate undefined, per the California Constitution.
  2. Rancho rights granted by the government of Spain or Mexico, prior to Statehood in 1850.
  3. Pueblo rights, the one belonging to Los Angeles being famous.
  4. Appropriative in 1913 and prior, aka “pre-1914”, for parcels not touching a body of water, which started with gold mining and is now mostly for agriculture.
  5. Post-1914 appropriative rights  issued by the State Water Resources Control Board.
  6. Adjudicated, or decreed, from Federal District or State Superior Court.
  7. Groundwater from a well, similar to surface water riparian but for the overlying land.
  8. Prescriptive, which isn’t a definite right until decreed by a court.
  9. Contracts, which are not rights but rely on some already-existing right(s).

Please leave a comment, correction, complaint, humor, or other message below:

For comparison purposes, here is the United States Bill Of Rights, conveniently available on the home page of the Bill Of Rights Institute:

Amendment I
Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the

U.S. Constitution, Photo Credit: constitution.org
U.S. Constitution, Photo Credit: constitution.org

government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment II
A well regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment III
No soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment IV
The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment V
No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a grand jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the militia, when in actual service in time of war or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment VI
In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the state and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the assistance of counsel for his defense.

Amendment VII
In suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise reexamined in any court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment VIII
Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment IX
The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment X
The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the states, are reserved to the states respectively, or to the people.

Five Times More Water Rights Than Average Runoff In California! But, So What? Who Cares?

L.A. Times – Rights to California surface water far greater than average runoff ………. California WaterBlog – California water rights: You can’t manage what you don’t measure ………. SacBee – California allocates vastly more water than supplies allow, study shows

You have read the articles – California’s water rights are WAY more than the average annual runoff!  The system is broken!  Agriculture is to blame – gosh, those capitalist farmers and ranchers are using precious water to make…Food!  Wood!  Paper!  Clothing!  Flowers!  A living, even Profits!  It’s obvious that I am using sarcasm; larger corporate farms notwithstanding, it’s not a big income-earning concern.  More people are leaving farms and ranches for easier work schedules and stable incomes, than are getting into farming.

From the L.A. Times – In California, rights to water exceed the supply :

“On some major river systems, especially in the parched San Joaquin Valley, the over-allocation is jaw-opening. On the San Joaquin River itself, people have rights to nearly nine times more water than flows down from the Sierra. On the Kern, it’s six times. On the Stanislaus, four.

“Water rights exceed average natural runoff on 16 major rivers, UC Davis researchers found last year. And they were only counting so-called junior rights — those granted after 1914, the last time the Legislature updated California’s convoluted water allocation system.


Based on the actual, not theoretical, effect of these water rights, we should be saying, “So what?”  Why is that, you ask?  For very good, practical reasons, as detailed here.

Decreed (adjudicated) surface water rights usually have maximum amounts, and reductions in supply are addressed by the decree specifying that lower priorities must shut off diversions first.  If all are the same priority, then everyone shares the losses by taking the same percentage reduction in flow.  Surplus flows can be diverted under many decrees, not under others, but availability of surplus diversions usually means flows are higher than average, and anyway they come earlier in the season, before flows drop in the summer.  The great majority of these rights are for agriculture, which either feeds you and me, or is sold outside the State and adds to our economy and government coffers.  I say, Who cares?  Limits on the use of these water rights are forever in place!

Riparian water rights have correlative shares of the available water…and reduced supply means riparian diverters must reduce diversions correlatively.  Sure, riparian diverters can divert as much as they can use reasonably and beneficially, according to the California Constitution, Article X, Section 2.  But, So what?  Who cares?  The acreage with riparian rights decreases every single year, as parcels with riparian rights are split.  The resultant parcels not adjacent to the stream no longer have riparian rights, except in the very rare case of a landowner getting an attorney’s help to deliberately reserve riparian rights on newly split parcels.

What about appropriative rights?  Think about it this way: pre-1914 appropriative water rights were maximized in…1914!  As World War I was starting, when the population was about 3 million compared to today’s 39 million, there were no more pre-1914 rights.  Regarding these senior water rights, So what?  Who cares?

What about post-1914 appropriative water rights?  As Hamlet said, “Ay, there’s the rub!”  Post-1914 water rights have grown steadily since 1915, as they were continually issued first by the State Water Commission, and then by its successor, the State Water Resources Control Board.  These are water rights are junior to all of those listed above, and they are conditioned, or limited, by the Water Board.  As shown during the last couple of years, the Water Board has the power to order the curtailment of some or all of these junior rights.  I say again, So what?  Who cares?

“Aha!”, say some, “You forgot that groundwater is making up all the shortage!  And that all comes from surface water!”  Yes, and in 2014, the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act was passed to address exactly that.  It will take some years, but withdrawals will be more stable, by law, in years to come.  There would not BE groundwater deficits if surface water could get around the Delta as it originally did with SWP and CVP.  It is not for lack of money in the past to pay for pumps or even the planned peripheral canal, and it is not for the lack of technology to move the water.  It is for environmental reasons that the planned volume of water does not make it to the San Joaquin Valley.  But, that’s a subject for some later post.

Let’s be really absurd, and imagine that in California, the amount of water rights issued is ONE MILLION TIMES the average annual runoff!!!  If the average annual runoff is 70 million acre-feet, the water rights are now 70 Trillion, 70,000,000,000,000 AF Per Year!  Let’s all run around with our hair on fire!  But, what does this really mean?

If we have the same reservoirs for storage, then no more can be stored.  If there is half the runoff in a drought year, farmers, ranchers, cities, manufacturers, and other human users can still only capture and use a certain amount.  Having no more plumbing – reservoirs and canals – means a lot of water is still going to be in streams, and making it to the Pacific Ocean.  That’s “environmental” water for fisheries and other aquatic species.

If we have a record wet year, same thing.  Humans can still only capture and use what the plumbing allows.  A much higher percentage of water is available for non-human, environmental uses.  Same Plumbing = Same Maximum Water Use, regardless of water rights.

Let’s flip the argument around and imagine a California in which the average annual runoff is five times the water rights.  Put another way, total water rights are only one fifth the average annual runoff.  What would the State look like then?

This would be a lot closer to the non-human, environmental paradise imagined by the left-leaning populations of our densely-populated cities.  Scale back agriculture by a factor of 5, and then the rest of the State economy with it.  We would look more like a larger New Mexico, maybe a Colorado, than we do today.  And our 39 million residents?  We would have more like 8 million, as we had in World War II.  So, which 4 out of 5 choose to leave the State to bring about this flora and fauna utopia for the 1/5 that are left?  What, nobody is volunteering to leave California, and donate their property to the Sierra Club, to make this greater environmental national monument happen??  I didn’t think so.

This may be repetitious, but:  SO WHAT?  WHO CARES?

What Happens To Surface Water Rights When Farms And Ranches Subdivide?

When a farm or ranch subdivides, what happens to the surface water rights?  We already got part of the answer from the State Water Resources Control Board, in Post # 82:

A018405_ewrims_lic_pg1_purpose_amtPermits And Licenses – What Are The Water Rights When Land Is Subdivided?  In summary, it is up to the water right holders to notify the Water Board that the land has subdivided and go from there.

The answer is well defined when a Superior Court Decree is under State of
California Watermaster Service:  Water Rights Reapportionment Method.  This document describes what is done under nearly all decrees with defined areas for water New_Pine_Dec1stpg_1925 - Editedrights, whether or not under state service…unless some other method is specified.  The State subdivides water rights whether or not new owners of subdivided parcels notify the Department of Water Resources; the requirement falls on the State instead of the water right holders.  Owners of land are notified at least once a year, since a charge for watermaster service is included on their tax bill.

What ACTUALLY happens with the water, when a subdivision is built on what used to be a farm or ranch?  Does water always go with water rights?

New Subdivision On Ranch With Water Rights - Photo Credit: Pixabay
New Subdivision On Ranch With Water Rights – Photo Credit: Pixabay

How do the owners of smaller parcels go about getting their water right?  In some cases, new owners have invested in pipelines to keep using the water right on the smaller parcels.  When the original owner subdivided the land, he or she made it clear that water rights were split up, or may have paid an attorney or engineer to split them up in advance.  These owners are well aware of what their rights are.  In other places, some new owners use water, others don’t, which is fine as long as a new owner doesn’t complain loudly.

Ex_2_Williamson_Parcel_Outline_on_DecreeMap_reducedIn still other locations, none of the new homeowners wanted to use the water, either because there was a built-in municipal supply of pure or treated water, or because one or more private or community wells were drilled.  The water right probably was not advertised as being available when the homes were built, and once the new owners were in, it became a lot more expensive to arrange pipelines across several neighbors’ properties to get a share of the surface water right.

What happens when nobody uses the water, or less water is used?  The answer is, of course, “It depends.”  If it is a decreed right, then the right stays with the

Subdivision On Old Farm - Photo Credit: Pixabay
Subdivision On Old Farm – Photo Credit: Pixabay

land unless the decree specifies another method.  It would take another court order to change the rights from what was originally decreed.  If it is a riparian right, then unless the owner was very careful to reserve riparian rights when subdividing the ranch, the only remaining rights are with those new parcels still adjacent to the stream.  Owners rarely think about reserving riparian rights in these cases, and so the riparian right is lost.  That is, unless:

  • The right was filed with the Water Board, either as a pre-1914 water right or a post-1914 application and the owner was subsequently issued a permit or license
  • …and the water continued to be used, and that use documented by the owner or with the Water Board
  • …and the water is used reasonably and beneficially, either for the original purpose of use, or for one of the many other appropriate purposes of use the Water Board considers reasonable and beneficial
  • …or, the right is part of a Superior Court adjudication, in which case the right is “eternal” because, for all the adjudications I have seen, there is no provision for expiration of rights.  Another court case is needed to change rights defined in the original decree.

I know this is not a neat, tidy explanation of what happens to water rights when a farm or ranch is subdivided.  Not surprisingly, water rights are well-understood by maybe 1% of California’s population.  No offense intended – only a few percent of the population lives on farms and ranches, and a fair number of those are in water or irrigation districts where the board and manager deal with the actual water rights.

In summary, this is an accurate description of what happens, as opposed to theoretical cases.  Water right subdivisions have a legal side, and a practical/applied side.  Sometimes the legal water right persists whether or not the water is used, as with riparian and court-decreed water rights.  Other times the reasonable, beneficial, and mostly continuous use of the water is what protects the existence of that right, for appropriative pre-1914 or post-1914 water rights.  Even if a pre- or post-1914 water right is not used for some years, when the owner does start using the water, if nobody complains, there is nothing to trigger action by the Water Board, or a lawsuit by neighbors.  After a few years of use, it will be hard for a complaining party to make the case for loss of the right because of the previous gap in time.

By the way, except where courts have decreed what the groundwater rights are, they are most like surface water riparian rights.  Regardless of the size of subdivided parcels, all of them still overlie groundwater and have a right to use it.  Control of their use is increasing with the  Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, and priorities (effective or actual) will be established, but that is a discussion for some later post.

What Should You Do If Your Neighbor Is Stealing Your Water??

This is a story about Larry Lucifer and Sally Saint, neighbors for 12 years on Rowdy Creek.  Larry is third generation on the same property, which was originally a 320-acre ranch.  His grandparents subdivided it for their 8 children, and some of then kept their 40-acre pieces, while a couple subdivided into ranchettes.  Sally and her family moved onto one of the smaller parcels and built their starter home.

The names have been changed to protect the innocent and guilty in this story.  However, most

Angry Neighbor Larry Lucifer - Photo Credit: Pixabay
  Angry Neighbor Larry Lucifer – Photo Credit: Pixabay

of Larry’s neighbors know him to have strong opinions that he is happy to share with anyone; using Lucifer as his last name is probably a fair characterization.  He knows what everyone else should be doing with their property, how they should vote, what they should drive, what their kids should do…and what their water right is.  He thinks he has a genetic ability to look at water in the creek or a ditch and tell you exactly what the flow is.  Larry has somehow stayed out of jail for his more famous misadventures, and he is happy to sue anyone he has a disagreement with.

Sally Saint is truly a nice lady who gets along with her neighbors.  Her husband Mark

Mark and Sally Saint Family - Photo Credit: Pixabay
  Mark and Sally Saint Family – Photo Credit: Pixabay

works for the Bureau of Reclamation and she works at a nail salon in town.  Their 2 kids are nice, and involved in various sports and 4H, and they get  good grades.  Sally volunteers at the schools and writes a beauty column in the local paper.  She is fairly well known and everyone likes her.

Mark is working overtime at the Bureau, so Sally is the one who puts in boards and irrigates from the ditch.  Everything went fairly well until 2012, and since then it seems to Sally that there has been a lot less water.  Larry’s whole pasture stays green all the way through August – hers is half dry in July.  Somebody must be stealing water!  The only one upstream on the ditch is…Larry.

  Lucifer and Saint Parcels (Red Lines), and Diversions

Sally doesn’t like conflict, so she asked around some.  Is there someone her other neighbors call about water problems?  Nope, there is no ditch tender for the diversions from Rowdy Creek, everyone takes care of their own water.  Sally used Bing to search online:  water dwr_watermaster_webproblems, ditches…water rights.  Yup, water rights brought up some likely results.  One of the government offices
is even close by – the Department of Water Resources (DWR) Watermaster Service.  She called and talked with the Senior Engineer in the Surface Water and Watermaster Section and then she took notes on what he said as fast as she could write:

“It’s not a water right from a court decree, so DWR has no jurisdiction.  Do you know the basis of your water rights?  No?  I’ll give you the Water Board’s number before we hang up.

“First, write down everything you know that is a fact, as well as what you think is going on.  Be clear on what you know and what you do not know for sure.

“This is really important:  TALK TO YOUR NEIGHBOR FIRST.  This makes good sense – if you can resolve a problem between the two of you, it is the cheapest, easiest, fastest, friendliest way to fix things.  Of course, be polite, ask questions, listen to what he says, don’t accuse.  If this works, you might keep from making an enemy unnecessarily.  Wouldn’t that be wonderful?  Sometimes it works!  If it does not work, at least you tried.

You might find out you are wrong – maybe your neighbor Larry is diverting a lot more than his right because he is legally combining flows from several diversions, all at one diversion.  Maybe he has a larger right than you thought, because he bought his neighbor’s property.  It could be a one-time thing – he had to flush his ditch for maintenance, or he was doing a trial flood-up after leveling land.  He could even be adding well water to the ditch somewhere you can’t see, and since it’s his he takes it out down the ditch.

Make sure you are diverting correctly, Sally!  Even if you are the nicest person

Newly Installed Briggs Weir
 Briggs Weir Box
PMC Data Logger

in the world, and your neighbor is as bad as you say, you will be upset and embarrassed if your neighbor turns around and finds you doing something wrong!  I don’t know your ditch or property, but I suggest that you get a measurement device installed, and a data logger working, your online reports to the Water Board submitted and current.  Given the size of your property, you probably need to record data every hour.

Intermountain_Env_Nuway_Flume_Brochure_Photo - Edited
Intermtn. Env. Flume

If you have enough fall in your ditch, you could put in a weir box from Briggs Manufacturing in Willows.  If not, then a sheet-metal flume from Intermountain Environmental, or I have a local friend that can make you a flume.  Oh, and I know a guy who can install it and a data logger right and make sure it’s working, inexpensively.  Give me your email and I’ll give you all their contact information.

“It is a really good idea not to ask for help from law enforcement officers (LEOs) or officers of the court.  They are not trained in, nor are they water diversion experts.  It wastes their time and yours to have to respond, and then it is frustrating for everyone when our LEOs cannot help to resolve a situation.  If a water argument goes sideways and turns into a water brawl, then definitely call 9-1-1!

DO contact the folks who have authority or at least have water rights and/or
water flow measurement expertise!  It is always safe to:

Call the Water Board:  (916) 341-5300

“They will either be able to help you directly, or to point you in the right direction.  For example, sometimes people in Community Service Districts, Water Districts, or Watermaster Service Areas call swrcb_div_water_rights_webthe Water Board, and staff there will refer them back to whoever regulates the water diversions there.  You’ll need to work with the district or agency that has authority over regulations if there is one.  Otherwise you’ll waste time and money for little or no effect.

If the Water Board folks are the ones who can solve your problem, then you will need to file a complaint.  Complaints used to be filled out by hand, now they are, of course, filled out online at https://calepacomplaints.secure.force.com/complaints/  Make sure you have a measurement device in first, if you can, so all of the Water Board’s attention will be focused on your neighbor and not you.

cutepdf_web_page“You will have to scan any paper documents you have.  Many home printers have a scanner – if you do not have one, then get help from a family member, or a business supplies store.  Oh, you have one?  Okay,  save documents as Adobe PDF files if possible; they are usually the format that results in the smallest file size.  Cute PDF and other freeware can make a PDF file from your scanner output image files – JPEG, PNG, etc.  Better yet, download the free NAPS2 scanner software on your computer – it can save scans directly to PDF format.  If you are desperate, you can use a digital camera to take a photo and send that…but it distorts the document, and small text may not be readable.naps2_web_page

“Make your complaint effective and easy to work on, by providing complete information:

  • Provide documentation of water rights.  Do you know what the water rights are, because they come from a permit or license, or decree, or other document?  Include them to save the government folks time…and establish that you know what you are talking about.
  • Get Google Earth or other maps, or sketches and drawings of the area.  Write on them the property boundaries, owners’ names, diversion locations, and other pertinent information.
  • Write a clear, concise statement of the problem: “My neighbor has a water right of 1.5 cfs, and I think he is diverting 3.5 cfs.”
  • Provide photographs or video, all you can get.
  • Provide any measurements you have made and recorded.  What were the dates, times, water depths, flows if you know them?
  • What do you want to have happen?  Explain clearly: “I want my neighbor to reduce his diversion from 3.5 cfs to his actual water right of 1.5 cfs, so I can get my full water right.”

“I think that’s about it, and I am 5 minutes late for a budget meeting so let’s call it good for today.  Call me back if you have any questions.  You too, have a great week.”

So, what did Sally do next?  This post is long enough – I’ll tell you the rest of the story soon!

Work Is Ramping Up, Blog Might Slow Down

Work is ramping up, which is a good thing, but posts in this blog may slow down.  I’ll have a post out on what do do if a neighbor is stealing water, in a couple of days.


A question came up from a client: Am I associated with a government agency?


The answer is:  Nope, I am not.  I retired from one – the California Department of Water Resources – but I have no obligations to anyone except

you, the client.  I do not share clients’ information, either, except when someone hires me on purpose to report their diversion amounts to the Water Board, or to certify a measurement device for the Board.

Have a good weekend, let’s pray for more snow and rain!


Table Of Contents For All Water Rights!

It was getting hard for ME to go back and find the posts I had written, so I added a Table Of Contents (TOC) to the left menu bar.  As of this date, there are 86 posts!  I like to put work into standard, documented procedures totable_of_contents_page-edited simplify life and make it easier for me to do the same thing next time, and for the next person in my job to pick it up quickly.  Why did I wait this long to do a simple TOC?

I wrote 5 times this much verbiage in emails as a bureaucrat, so it is not lack of ability.  Of course most of my State emails were for everyday work and coordination.  Little of it had public interest.

In this blog, though, every post is of interest to a few thousand water right holders.  The TOC lets you scroll through every post at your leisure and pick out the titles you are most interested in today.  Tomorrow you’ll have a different question, and the TOC and blog posts will still be here for your use.

Do you have a question or an idea you do not see in the TOC?  Let me know and I’ll publish a post about it!

On the How Do I? page, I picked out the burning questions and the posts how_do_i_page-editedthat provide the best answers.  When I received phone calls in the Watermaster job from which I recently retired, this lookup format was most useful in helping someone solve an immediate problem.

Is there a water rights issue or flow measurement problem you can’t find an easy answer for?  Let me know and I will write a post, then include the link on this page, too!


Use BING or DUCKDUCKGO To Search When Google Won’t Do The Job

This isn’t directly about water rights or devices, it is about how to find the information you need.  In the past I suggested using the Google search engine to find a specific past blog post on a subject.  For example on losing water rights, I might try Googling lose my water right.  The first result would be my blog post, Can I Lose My Water Right?.  Most people love Google – it is part of the language – “Google it!” – and it searches blazing fast.

google_lose_my_water_right-editedNow, however, Google‘s search algorithm may find it, or may NEVER find it.  A big part of the reason is that Google tries to give you “the answer you really want” – their engine makes assumptions for you.  That’s nice when it is right, and can make you tear your hair out when it is dead wrong.  Also, Google is better than the NSA at storing every fact about your life, forever, so they can make a profit from you.  That’s fine, I am a big fan of capitalism, but it means Google may skew your search results or remove certain results altogether.  Sure, Google will list it first if I quote the search:  “lose my water right”, but how many times are we sure of the exact phrase?bing_lose_my_water_right-edited

For more reliable search results, I use Microsoft’s BING.com nowadays.  BING is
more literal in searching the words you enter.  As the Avis car rental company used to say, “We’re number 2, so We Try Harder!”  BING does try harder to answer the searches actually entered into the box.

DUCKDUCKGO.com is another good search engine, that gives more literal results.  Apparently, DUCKDUCKGO is also not keeping a huge database to steer duckduckgo_lose_my_water_right-editedyou to purchases.  As they say on their About page,  “Take back your privacy!  Switch to the search engine that doesn’t track you.

When you can’t find something, don’t use Google, use BING or DUCKDUCKGO to get the answers you are really searching for!

As a check, I tried each search engine on the unquoted phrase lose water right.  I thought it might show up on the first page with Google, but it did not.  Since my blog post is ONLY about losing water rights, I thought it might at least be in the top 10.  As a matter of fact, when I had searched 6 or 7 times on Google, it blocked me from searching for that phrase at all, thinking I might be a robot.  That’s funny, since I am using a Google Chromebook which uses Google‘s own operating system!

When I did the same unquoted search, lose water right, on BING and DUCKDUCKGO, the blog post “Can I Lose My Water Right?” was the sixth result on the first page.

Who would have thought that the Internet tools you use can make such a big difference with the information you find?  As I just told my wife, I am using BING more and more to get what I actually requested!  BING is not just the name of a famous crooner or a kind of cherry anymore.

Can Measuring Your Diversion Make You Money??

Yes, if you know how much you divert by the month or week, you can take it to the bank.  Literally, if you have good numbers, it can make the difference between getting the operating or improvement loan you want, or working harder to get a lesser amount.  Your water right is a resource, just like the land, equipment, seed, feedMan working in ditch CostaDisc2-129 - Edited, livestock, or anything else.  The better proof you have on just how much of that resource, in this case your diversion, that you have, the more solid it looks to a banker.

Another well-known fact, you have to measure your diverted water to manage it.  Chris Reilly, the
Department of Water Resources Indian Creek Watermaster in Plumas County, educates people on this fact all the time.  In one case, a diverter was correctly diverting the right amount, but was losing more than half of it in the short ditch before it reached the field.  Why photo_4957didn’t the farmer know?  He had not measured it.  Once Chris measured it, the owner knew what he was losing.  He piped part of his ditch and was able to irrigate more acreage.  That’s money in the pocket once the pipe is paid off!

Every buyer of property has a bunch of questions, and how much water is actually available is top of the list for a farm or ranch.  If you can show records of how much you log_book_exampledivert, it gives certainty to a doubtful buyer or potential lessee.  They’ll know how much they can expect to have for irrigation in a wet, normal, or dry year.  I had so many calls over the years I worked at the Department of Water Resources, from realtors, attorneys, buyers, and sellers, asking “What is my water right?  How do I prove it?”  Sometimes it was sell or no-sell depending on the answer.  On one ranch near Fall River, a riparian right on a square-mile ranch was in question.  A Nevada buyer called Irrigation_smallme several times trying to understand California water rights and prove whether or not there was a solid water right on this ranch.  If the seller had documented his water right and how much he diverted annually, there would have been no doubt at all!

It supports your water right.  Water rights make land worth more, a LOT more than dry land.  The better a water right is documented, as well as diversions made under that right, the more solid you right is.

Most farmers want their kids to inherit the place and keep it in agricultural production.  It is a way of life available to fewer families each year, which means it is scarce, and that makes living on a working farm that much greater a gift to leave behind you.  Your will, or trust, or LLC, or corporation documents, need to be all squared away so your wishes are met after you have passed on.  A proven water right is one of the important things you’ll need in that documentation to ensure your family can keep irrigating the farm down the generations.

That’s all for now, and a good night to all.

Permits And Licenses – What Are The Water Rights When Land Is Subdivided?

 Back in December, I posted on the place of use for water rights defined in A018405_ewrims_lic_pg1_purpose_amtpermits and licenses from the Water Board:  


Permits and licenses have a place of use – sometimes it is easy to locate on the ground, and sometimes it is so-many-acres within a larger area.  I have never found the maps with the online, downloadable documents available at eWRIMS.  To get the maps, staff at the Water Board have to be contacted, and a copy of the map must be requested separately.

If you have, or some other diverter has a water right and the land has never subdivided since the time that the permit or license was issued, then a new owner will easily be able to see where the water right is diverted and applied.  What if you own land subdivided from a larger farm or ranch with a permitted or licensed right?  Do you have a water right at all?  I asked Paul Wells at the Water Board, and he explained:

“When land with a water right is subdivided, the new owners are responsible for contacting the State Water Board to inform us of the ownership change. Additional information on filing a change of ownership may be found on the following webpage:


For administrative purposes, we have one primary contact for each water right. If the land is subdivided, the additional owners should contact our office to record that they are now co-owners under the right.

There is also the option of splitting the right into two or more rights. Each part would then be treated as an individual water right.”

That’s good news if you want to keep your part of the water right!  This comes with a big caution – the Water Board will consider whether a permitted or licensed right has been used within the last 5 years.  If not, it is possible the Board may consider the right to have expired…although it is not automatic.  Also, if one person has been paying the costs associated with the water right, both physical maintenance and Board fees, as well as filing all the paperwork (now online forms), that person may contest a subdivision of the water right.  The decision is in the hands of the Water Board.

This is much the same as a water right described in a Superior Court decree.  If Ex_2_Williamson_Parcel_Outline_on_DecreeMap_reducedthe right is areal and is a certain flow or volume on certain acreage, then it is usually proportioned by acreage for subdivided parcels.  There are exceptions – if the rights are apportioned differently by written agreement, then this may be accepted by a judge later if a case comes before the court.  If the resultant parcels are too small, then state watermaster areas will give the tiny rights to larger parcels.  For example, at the Department of Water Resources, the minimum right is 0.005 cfs, unless a tiny piece added to one or more other pieces sums to 0.005 cfs.

As always, it pays to do your research before bringing this up with Water Board staff or your neighbor.  On the one hand, you don’t want to waste your time and money only to find out your property was never part of the place of use described in a permit or license.  On the other hand, if your property should have a right, you want to make your claim clear and then approach your neighbor(s) politely with plenty of evidence.  Having a right doesn’t mean someone else won’t take action before the Water Board or in court, costing you time and money even if you are right.  So, prepare your paperwork, maps, photos, and calculations ahead of time.

I hope you got some of the rain we have had at our place the last couple of days.  That’s enough for now, have a good night everyone!

What Does A Water Rights Report Look Like?

Williamson_Parcel_Outline_on_DecreeMap_reducedIn December 2015, I told the story of the Williamsons, owners of property near Cow Creek in Shasta County.  They wanted to know what their water right is.  After talking with neighbors, they decided their best option was to work with Rights To Water Engineering.  In a short time, and at a relatively low cost, they had a report explaining their water right, how much of their property it covers, where the diversion is, and other important information from South Cow Creek Decree No. 38577.



So, what does their report look like?  Most of it is shown in the posts above, but the report is not.  Click here to see the whole 14-page Shawn_Profile_Barn_Light_Circlereport.  Now you know what to expect to see in your water rights report!

How is a person supposed to figure out his or her water right, certify a measurement device, measure the diverted flow, and report it to the Water Board?  That is what I do for a living: help you get rid of headaches, upset, and trouble, to comply with State law, make sure you know your water right, and measure and report your diversions.  The phone call is free to discuss your needs,  (530) 526-0134, and email is also free at RightsToWaterEng1@gmail.com.

Arnold and Eileen Williamson Report 20151224_01

Arnold and Eileen Memo 20151222_02

Arnold and Eileen Memo 20151222_03