Here’s some good news! Rainfall and snowpack are up to average as of January 18, 2019. The plots below are from https://cdec.water.ca.gov/ –> Precipitation –> Tulare / San Joaquin / Northern Sierra Plots, and –> Snow –> Daily Regional Snowpack Plots. We have been praying for rain and snow, and the Good Lord is providing it:
How is a staff gage installed in a reservoir? The typical way is to drive a piece of 2″ galvanized pipe into the ground, deep enough to so it isn’t easy to push over. If cattle will be in the reservoir to get water, then the pipe needs to be really well installed. A gas-powered post pounder can be rented at Rental Guys, Home Depot, or similar places.
Most reservoirs are deeper than six feet, so it’s best to maximize the length of pipe installed. The length of pipe that can be installed by hand is usually about 6 feet. For a 6-foot tall pipe, about 3 feet of pipe needs to be in the ground, so the total pipe length is 9 feet.
Then the staff gage is attached to a 2″ x 8″, using screws or small bolts. Staff gages vary in width from 1″ to 4″; the usual USGS Style C staff gages are 2-1/2″ wide. Once the staff gage is screwed on, the board is U-bolted to the pipe.
That’s it…except for the surveying part. The top of staff gage needs to be at the same level as the spillway crest, so the maximum water surface elevation can be measured.
If the reservoir is deeper than 6 feet, and most are, then staged staff gages may be needed. The first gage is installed at the top, going from, say, 6 feet to 12 feet. The second, lower staff gage is installed from 0 feet to 6 feet, and 6 feet is exactly the same elevation on both staff gages. In the photo below, there are 3 staged staff gages to measure 18 feet in elevation. The top of the third, lowest staff gage can be seen in the bottom right corner.
What if a pond is full, or mostly full? It is still possible to install a staff gage, but it will be harder. Boats or rafts will be needed, and the pipe with the board already attached has to be put in place and held vertical while being driven. If the total depth is greater than 6 feet, then a longer pipe, board, and staff gage will be needed, and the combined weight will be that much greater. Hint: tie a rope and buoy to the pipe so
when if it slips and sinks, it can be pulled up again.
What about installing a staff gage along the slope of a dam, to avoid having to wrestle a pipe and board for a deep installation? This can be done by attaching a length of rebar or pipe to the dam face using concrete stakes or similar method. The slope distances measured are converted to vertical depths. However, this won’t stand up well to cattle or elk traffic, and it is more liable to be vandalized if the reservoir has easy access.
How do you measure flow in a pipeline? The simplest
way is integrated, saddle-mounted propeller or magnetic meters. For example, see the post on McCrometer magnetic flow meters: https://allwaterrights.com/tag/inline-magnetic-flow-meter/. Propeller meters look much the same. Both mount through a hole cut in the pipeline, making them quick to install, and easy to remove for maintenance. These meters can handle some sediment and still be accurate, although water with a lot of silt and sand wears out propellers faster.
What about cost? For integrated meters, the costs start at about $3,200 delivered, and go up with diameter.
If you want to spend the least amount of money and still have accurate flow
measurement, a paddlewheel meter may be a good solution. These can be integrated, or can be assembled from the meter, data collector,
display, and possibly other parts.
For an idea of the cost, an IP 800 paddlewheel meter, FT450 display, and DL76 data collector for a small pipeline cost about $2,000 delivered.
That is about $1,200 cheaper than a magnetic meter for the same-sized pipeline.
So, why not always use a paddlewheel meter rather than more expensive magnetic or propeller meters? Paddlewheels wear out faster if there is sediment in the pipeline. I have seen installations where pumping from a muddy river wore out a paddlewheel
in a year, but a propeller meter lasted 3 years pumping from the same river before needing refurbishment. The shaft and wheel can be replaced in the field, at a lower cost than propeller or magnetic meter refurbishment. However, busy farmers and ranchers don’t have time to check the paddlewheel once or twice a year, so the meter installation is at a greater risk of losing data than a propeller or magnetic meter.
If you are brave or experienced enough, you could get a paddlewheel integrated with the data collector, and no external display. This would get your delivered cost down to about $1,500. Data needs to be downloaded more often, perhaps every 2 to 3 months, to ensure the meter is working correctly. Also, the meter needs to be installed from the side, not the top, so more clearance is required to the side.
An oldie but still the best summary of riparian rights that can fit on both sides of an 8-1/2″ x 11″ sheet of paper:
Riparian Rules by Chuck Rich, State Water Resources Control Board, 2007
GENERAL RULES GOVERNING THE EXISTENCE OF AND
USE OF WATER PURSUANT TO RIPARIAN CLAIMS OF RIGHT
- A riparian right exists by reason of ownership of land abutting upon a stream or body of water and affords no basis of right to use water upon nonriparian land.
- A parcel of land generally loses its riparian right when severed from the stream channel via a parcel split (i.e., “physical severance”) unless the right is specifically reserved for the severed parcel in the deed of transfer or other conveyance document. However, the California Supreme Court has held that where a physical severance has previously taken place, if the severed tract was receiving water from the creek at the same time the conveyance created the severance, that fact can be used in court to argue that the grantor and grantee did not intend any severance of riparian rights notwithstanding the physical severance, and the riparian right might be preserved as a result – if the court so decides. The riparian right also may be lost when transferred apart from the land by grant, contract, or condemnation. Once lost or severed, the riparian right can NEVER be restored.
- Riparian water right holders may only divert a share of the “natural streamflow” of water in the stream. “Natural streamflow” is the flow that occurs in a watercourse due to accretions from rainfall, snowmelt, springs and rising groundwater. To the extent that flow in its natural state reaches or flows through their property, riparian right holders have a proportional right, based on need, to the use of the natural flow.
- A riparian right does not allow diversion of water that is foreign to the stream source. Water that is: a) imported from another watershed; b) stored and subsequently released later in time into the stream system from upstream dams; or c) irrigation runoff generated from the application of percolating groundwater applied to upstream lands; is not available for diversion under a riparian claim of right.
- Water diverted under claim of riparian right may only be used on the parcel of land that abuts the stream – – unless the severed parcel’s riparian status has been somehow retained (see #2 above), and then only on that portion of the parcel that drains back into that portion of the stream from which the water was originally diverted.
- In order to divert water under claim of riparian right, the diverter must use the water on riparian land but need not own the land at the point of diversion. That is, the diversion may be made at a point upstream (or downstream) from the land being served so long as permission is granted to use that point of diversion and intervening land owners between the point of diversion and place of use are not adversely affected by such practice. However, water cannot be diverted upstream or downstream under a riparian claim of right if this water would not have reached the diverter’s land in the “natural” state of affairs. (In other words, the land is only riparian to the stream when the stream, in the natural state, would actually reach or touch the parcel in question.)
- Riparian rights are not lost by nonuse of the water.
- “Seasonal storage” of water cannot be accomplished under a riparian claim of right. “Seasonal storage” is generally defined as the collection of water during a period of excess flow for use during a period of deficient flow. However, water may be retained for strictly “regulatory” purposes. “Regulatory storage” of water means the direct diversion of water to a tank or reservoir in order that the water may be put to use shortly thereafter at a rate larger than the rate at which it could have been diverted continuously from its source. Regulatory ponds should generally be drained at the end of the season of use (e.g., irrigation season).
- If there is insufficient water for the reasonable, beneficial use requirements of all riparian owners, they must share the available supply. Apportionment is governed by various factors, including each owner’s reasonable requirements and uses. In the absence of mutual agreement, recourse to a determination in the Superior Court may be necessary.
- The riparian diverter is subject to the doctrine of reasonable use, which limits the use of water to that quantity reasonably required for beneficial purposes. The method of diversion and conveyance must also be reasonable and non-wasteful.
- A diverter who possesses a valid riparian claim of right does NOT need to obtain a permit from the State Water Resources Control Board for the act of diverting water. However, any alteration made to a natural channel in order to divert the water will probably require acquisition of a “streambed alteration agreement” from the Department of Fish and Game and may require a Section 404 Permit from the Army Corps of Engineers or a waste discharge requirement from the appropriate Regional Water Quality Control Board. Compliance is also required with any other local, state, or federal requirements regarding construction and operation of the diversion facilities.
- Water Code section 5100, et seq. requires that a “Statement of Water Diversion and Use” be filed with the Division for any diversion under riparian right if no other entity reports this use. As of 2007, there is no charge to file this document and forms are available upon request from the Division of Water Rights.
Do something wrong, rather than nothing at all. Have you ever heard that before? I have heard it from Army veterans, a boss, even an elder of a church. George Patton said, “A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.” A non-military way to say that is, “A poor plan now is better than no plan at all.”
What it means to you and me is, if action is necessary, do something, maybe ANYthing, rather than freezing in place or ignoring a problem. This is obvious when you see a tornado 5 miles away, for example; either drive away from it if you are in a car, or take shelter if you are on foot. If you have a plumbing leak in the house and no parts to replace broken pipe, then put a bucket under it, or turn off the valve, and call a plumber. All of us have seen a TV show (or maybe had it happen to us) where the bad guy pointed a rifle and said, “Don’t move”. What do we all say to the TV? “Don’t just stand there, run!”. Doing nothing is a much worse choice, if the result for freezing in place is death or injury.
What about water rights – how does doing something wrong help? Everyone knows by now that surface water diverters need measurement devices, so put in a weir box and boards and measure your flow before the threats come from the Water Board, your watermaster, your ditch tender, or your neighbor. Even just stick horizontal boards in a ditch and seal the sides with plastic – something to take positive action to reduce future pain.
Remember to file the information for the measurement device with the Water Board, either via your annual report of diversions, or using the Water Right Form and Survey Submittal Portal.
Take a look at the blog posts below. There is enough information and how-to directions, that you should be able to do it well enough to satisfy the Water Board. Check out these posts:
- Weirs – Planning, Building, And Measuring Flows
- Update to “Weirs – Planning, Building, & Measuring Flows”
- Submerged Orifices From a Turned-Over Weir Board
- McCrometer Mc Mag 3000 Saddle Flow Meter, 4″ to 12″ Pipelines; Sontek IQ For Larger
- How Do You Record Diversions? Water Level Loggers, Value Vs. All Component Costs – Update
- Level , Seal, and Replace for Accurate Flow Measurements
- Accurate, Economical Flume for LARGE Diversions
- Update To: New Local Provider of Cutthroat Flumes
There is a philosophy based in law and a lot of experience, that says don’t put any controls on yourself until the court or government makes
you. Why remodel your house to accommodate the wiring or plumbing, if you aren’t selling the house and everything works okay right now? Who would put a lot of money into an old truck to make it pass smog, if it just might pass a smog check the next time it has to be done? What farmer would change how he irrigates or ranches if everything still operates and the bank will keep making operating loans?
All of the Water Board deadlines have passed to install measurement devices, or file Alternative Compliance Plans. If you haven’t got your device or plan done yet, get a Request For Additional Time done as soon as possible.
Be proactive. Take some inexpensive, temporary action. Educate yourself for free with some time in the Internet. Even a small, less-than-perfect improvement in your measurement device, flow and water use record keeping, can pay back a lot more when you have to deal with potential Water Board fines, a court case, or even just an angry neighbor in the future.
How can large diversions be measured? Long-throated flumes are a good option, especially if the ditch has low banks, or a lot of sediment or debris could clog a weir or orifice. Premanufactured Parshall or Replogle flumes go up to around 20 cubic feet per second (9,000 gallons per minute). If they are made for larger flows than that, they are prohibitively expensive to ship or manufacture.
Recently, though, Watchman long-throated flumes have become available. They are made in Northern California, so shipping costs are lower. They typically go up to 20 cubic feet per second in size, but I have installed a 30-cfs Watchman flume. The manufacturer can easily make larger-capacity flumes, too – standard plans go up to 60 cfs, and they can be shipped in ready-to-assemble sections for up to 200 cfs.
Watchman flumes are made of 10-gauge steel, a little thicker than 1/8 inch. The premanufactured flumes I have seen ship from outside the state are made of 16-gauge steel, which is about 1/16″ thick. These can work well if care is taken during installation, but the Watchman’s heavier gauge steel can withstand more backfill and rougher treatment. They’ll last longer, too.
What about cost? It turns out that Watchman flumes are about the same cost per cubic foot per second, as flumes made from lighter-gauge steel. Some farmers and ranchers like concrete better than steel. Watchman flumes can be built inside Briggs pre-cast concrete rice boxes and weir boxes, if you need an installation to last for 30 years or more.
Where can you buy these? The manufacturer does not advertise – let me know and I can put you in touch with them.
This is a question that comes up all over California, every day. It usually comes in one of two ways:
- I’m about to buy some land. Will I have a water right if the previous owner did not use it for X years ?
- 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.
“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:
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.
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.
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.