Standard Units – Acre-Feet and CFS

“Mornin’ Lisa, this is Will.  Hey, my diversion dropped off last night.  You’re the next water user upstream, so I thought I’d check if you made a change last night.”

“Hey Will, how are you folks?  Yeah I did.  I was only taking 50, and my right is 112, so I bumped it up to my full right.”Aerial_Small

“112?!  How’s that work?  My farm is bigger than your place, and I only get 20!  Well Lisa, I think you’re taking too much and you better turn it down.  There’s no way you get that much!”

“Will, when we bought this place from the Sarco’s 4 years ago, they showed me in the deed where the ranch gets up to 112.  It’s right there in the deed….  Do you and Roberta have a deed or something, Will?  How ’bout me and Steve come over and talk about it.  Joe down on the bottom told me there’s been water wars here, and I don’t want hassle if we can avoid it.”Screenshot 2016-04-17 at 08.38.49

 

“Sure, come on over, we may end up talking to lawyers but let’s see if we can figure it out first.”

The next morning, Steve and Lisa went over and dropped in on Will and Roberta.  Lisa showed Will right in the deed where, sure enough, it said” …all water rights appurtenant to the parcel, in the amount of 112 gallons per minute…”  They also showed a Permit from the Water Board, for the same amount.

Will and Roberta laid out a copy of their 1882 filing with the county, wSenior Rightshere it showed their ranch, one of the original ranches in the decree, with a water right of 20 miners inches.
“Lisa, wait a minute, you guys divert in gallons?  How does that match up with miners inches??  Most everyone around here diverts in miners inches, not gallons.”

“When we bought the place, Joe Sarco showed us how our farm was subdivided from the original parcel.  Will, Roberta, you guys know, his farm was split into 4 equal parcels.  When he did that, and the water rights were divided up equally too.  Well, the other 3 parcels got 111, and ours got 112 gallons per minute, almost equal.”

“Well, how much is gallons per minute, in miners inches.  Steve, do you know?”

“I have no idea.  I suppose we can figure it out.  I went and look at our box, and your headgate, Will, and it looks like you are diverting several times as much as we are.”

There are all kinds of ways to measure flow and storage.  Flow rates for agricultural diversions in California include gallons per minute (gpm), miners inches, inches of head, shares, heads, and acre-feet per day (AF/day).  Take a look at the following table from http://www.jennessent.com/unit_conv/manual/no_frame/flow1.htm – there is no lack of ways to measure flow!jennessent.com_FlowMeasUnits

Some of these are very precise, and some not so precise.  “Accurate” is different than “precise”, as STEM graduates are fond of pointing out.  A measurement of 4.25 gpm is very precise, to the second decimal…but if the actual flow going down the ditch is really 9 gpm, then the reading of 4.25 gpm is nowhere near accurate.

Anyway, how much is a gallon per minute, and a miners inch?  Let’s put them in the standard units we use for agricultural diversions today.  Volumes are measured in AF, or one acre of land with water one foot deep.  Flow is measured in cubic feet per second (CFS).  Here are the relationships:

1  CFS = 40 miners inches (except sometimes it’s 50 miners inches, and there are several other variations.  Check out https://www.google.com/?ion=1&espv=2#q=dr%20hydro%20miners%20inches….)

1 CFS  =  450 gpm  =  2 AF/day

More precisely, 1 CFS = 448.84 gpm = 1.983 AF/day, but using the rounded values above is plenty precise enough for field measurements.

What about Steve’s and Lisa’s 112 gpm, and Will’s and Roberta’s 20 miners inches?  It turns out they’re both right, fortunately.  112 gpm is 0.25 cfs, close enough for horse shoes, and 20 miners inches is 0.50 cfs at the 40-miners-inches-per-cfs standard.  So, Will and Roberta do have twice as big a right as Steve and Lisa, which is easy to see once the units agree!

Coming to a Diversion Near You – Water Board’s 2017 Measuring, Reporting Requirements

Continuing our discussion from a previous post, https://allwaterrights.com/2016/01/27/diverters-must-report-weekly-daily-or-hourly-starting-2017/, surface water diverters must have some kind of measurement system, and must report diversions more frequently.  The Water Board posted a fact sheet online that summarizes the emergency regulations:  SENATE BILL 88 AND EMERGENCY REGULATION FORMEASURING AND REPORTING ON THE DIVERSION OF WATER

Many diverters, particularly those who report less than 100 acre-feet (AF) per year, can find enough information in this blog to successfully install their own measurement devices.  100 AF per year is equivalent to a year-round, 24-7 diversion of 0.140 cubic feet per second (cfs).  If the diverter only uses water during the irrigation season, the equivalent rate is higher.  For example, a diversion for 90 days is only 1/4 of a year, so the rate is proportionately 4 times greater:  0.560 cfs.

What are some of the other regulations?  Here are a few from the January 8 version, which still has the edits shown.  The first is that diverters must “immediately” report changes in name, address, or ownership.  Sometimes, buyers of property don’t even know they have a permit or license!  Not immediately reporting something a buyer is not even aware of, puts the new owner in legal trouble:20160108_prop_regs_S_915-916

There are changes in the regs which we have already discussed, in measurement devices, reporting frequency, and who is legally qualified to install measurement devices:

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More on the regulations later, including additional information about how to comply with the law, stay out of trouble, and protect your right to divert water

Chilean Water Rights at (darn near) the Driest Place on Earth

California seems like a big place to me – I live here.  However, to cover the land surface of earth would take 400 Californias.  There are other places of interest on this celestial ball, like Chile.  What’s amazing about Chile?  The following information comes from various sources and I have not fact-checked it all:

  • 1/3 of all the copper in the world is mined here.
  • Easter Island and its amazing, huge head statues are part of the country.
  • It is a very secure country for residents and tourists.
  • It’s in the Southern Hemisphere (I hope that wasn’t a surprise!)
  • The world’s smallest deer, the pudú, is from there.
  • The people are extraordinarily friendly to visitors.
  • It has the driest “non-polar” desert in the world.  Drier than Death Valley in California??  Yup, it is:  The Atacama Desert in Chile gets 1/25 (0.04″) of an inch of rain per YEAR on average.

It is that last fact, about the Atacama Desert, that makes an amazing story about water rights.  Amazing to me, and hopefully to you, too.

Map of Chilemap_of_chile[1]

In March of 2015, there were very unusual, heavy rains in the desert, and sadly, over 100 people were killed.  Several cities were hit with floods, including the place of interest for this post, the City of Copiapó.

Atacama Desert, by Evelyn Pfeifferimage

The ongoing, increasing problem is not floods, but lack of water.  Of course generations of Chileans have learned to live with that so they have water year-round.  However, recent increases in copper mining have required proportional increases in the use of water as part of the mining process.  (My mining expert friend Mark can correct me here if needed).

Ironically, in 1981, Augusto Pinochet, the formidable dictator, changed the water code so the government has much LESS control, so water rights are much more free market.  Not only can mining companies pay much more, up to $750,000 per acre-foot according to Copiapó city officials, but they can use water than runs on their own properties for free.  [An acre-foot is 43,560 cubic feet of water, or 325,851 gallons – 326,000 gallons near enough, and the amount used by 1 or 2 families per year.]  Given that mining companies have bought a significant chunk of farm land with water rights, that gives the companies the lion’s share.  The increased pumping and new city wells are pulling in more brackish or salty water, at the same time that there is much less water available.

City of Copiapó, ChileCopiapó_atardecer_de_Otoño (1)

In California, city residents might pay up to $4,000 per acre-foot of water, roughly speaking.  I know I’ll get corrected by more than a few people on that.  The highest-profit agriculture might pay up to $1,500 per acre-foot of water.  San Diego’s desalination plant that is being built right now, is expected to cost residents maybe $1,200 per acre-foot of use.

Thankfully, our State’s founders wrote us a good Constitution; it specifies that all water must be used reasonably and beneficially.  Human health and safety are the highest priorities.  Somehow, some way, water gets to 99.99% of people even in a severe drought.  In addition, California is one of the great breadbaskets of the world, even in a severe drought.  Folks, we are blessed in the State of California!  Go see some of the rest of the world, and it will increase your appreciation of our abundance of water, and even thankfulness for our confusing, multi-basis, and to some people “oudated”, water rights system in California.

Dunes of the Atacama, by Evelyn Pfeiffer

The photo above could be of the Anzo-Borrego desert in southeastern California, but it’s from the whole lot drier Atacama Desert in Chile.