What If NO Measurement Device Works?

What if you have a diversion where NO standard measurement device works, at all?  There could be several reasons where a device just will not get the amount of your diversion properly:

  • Your diversion is by seepage underground, subsurface flow that comes to the surface in your field.  There is no ditch to put a measurement device in.
  • Your channel runs to a reservoir or a field acting like a shallow pond, but the
    Pond - photo credit: publicdomainfiles.com
    Pond – photo credit: publicdomainfiles.com

    flow either runs in or back out into the stream depending on how high the stream flow is.  In this case, flow might go either way, for a positive or negative value of diversion, or none at all for standing water, depending on when you look.

  • Your diversion is a bunch of small channels, with holes dug in the streambank where water comes out in shallow ditches.  Sometimes the major part of the diversion switches between small channels, so no device or devices will adequately measure the diverted flow.
  • Etc.

Here’s where Alternative Compliance will be more accurate than a guess, and may be the only way of measuring your diversion!  What reasonable options might work to measure what you divert?  Here are some methods used:

  • If your diversion goes to a reservoir, survey it to develop an elevation-storage table.  Engineers call these area-capacity curves, the terms are interchangeable.  This only works if the reservoir is not being filled and used at the same time!  In other words, you fill it, then you empty it, and maybe you fill it again.  If you do fill at the same time you release from the reservoir, then you will need two standard flow measurement devices and two data collectors: a device and data logger at both the entrance and the exit.
  • Flooded crop land. Photo credit: nrcs.usda.gov
    Flooded crop land. Photo credit: nrcs.usda.gov

    If a field is flooded and then the diversion is shut off, then treat it as a reservoir.  How big is it, in acres?  What is the average depth, in feet?  Multiply the area by depth, and you have acre-feet.  You probably need to add a value for infiltration, what soaks in before the field is flooded.  This will likely be at least 5%, up to 20% or even higher for volcanic soils.

  • Use acceptable values from CIMIS for evapotranspiration for your crop.  Work with NRCS or DWR to get infiltration values – what soaks into the ground and ends up as groundwater.
  • Measure the flow in the stream, upstream and downstream of the area where diversion occurs.  This is actually done as a matter of course in places like Sierra Valley, where each diversion may be taken at 3 to 8 locations for one ranch or farm.
  • Stream Gage - Photo Credit: usgs.gov
    Stream Gage – Photo Credit: usgs.gov

    Measure a stream as a system – with a gage at the upper and lower ends, like the Hat Creek top gage and bottom gage, at least the diverters can be sure the total water right is not exceeded.  This doesn’t satisfy the law for individuals, but it will show agencies that the stream as a whole has the right amount of flow left in, so it might keep out the Water Board, Fish and Game, U.S. Fish and Wildlife, National Marine Fisheries Service, etc.

The great thing about Alternative Compliance is, a diverter just submits the plan

Alternative Compliance Summary, 10-14-2016
         Alternative Compliance Summary, 10-14-2016

to the Water Board and then starts using it!  There is no approval or denial process.  The catch is, the plan will be posted online where neighbors, other diverters, and various government agencies can read it and make comments to the Water Board.  If the plan does not seem reasonable, at that point the Water Board can insist on a different plan.  If the new plan is done and certified by the appropriate professional, then the diverter is in the clear.  If not, then after a span of time the Water Board may assess up to $1,000 per day fines.

The key to making Alternative Compliance work and not get push-back from the Water Board, is communication.  Talk to the Water Board staff, make a working relationship with one or two, send them an email of updates, don’t just rely on submitting the form.  Having a relationship with someone on staff can cut through the confusion and help you get your point across.  If not that, then make sure the person who is doing the plan for you, is one who talks to Water Board folks regularly!

Flash! Water Board Measurement Fair NEWS

The Water Board Measurement Fair
was today, from 10 – 4 at the 
EPA building in Sacramento!

The Board had lots of new information.  The morning sessions revealed:

  • Watermaster Service Areas are exempt from most of this, if the Watermaster reports monthly diversions, once a year, to the Water Board or a Superior Court.
  • The Water Board staff “have a range of options in working to resolve
    Cal EPA Building. Photo credit: library.ca.gov

    disagreements” about whether diversions comply with new regulations, according to Kathy Mrowka and attorney Nathan…did not catch his last name.  That means a diverter can reason with Board staff.

  • The draft Alternative Compliance form is out!  Not online yet, so here is a black-and-white PDF for your use now: SWRCB_DRAFT_Alternative_Compliance_bw.pdf.  I think I heard correctly that Alternative Compliance Plans are good for 5 years, and then they must be revisited.
  • All diversions over 10 AF, up to 10,000 AF, report annually to the Water Board, with exceptions below.  Monthly flow volumes are reported; data collected weekly, daily, or hourly, are to be kept by the diverter but not reported unless the Board requests it.

    Kathy Mrowka (3rd from right) wins the 2015 award for management of the complex drought evaluations. Photo credit: waterboards.ca.gov
  • Telemetry will be required starting in 2020, for 1) diversions over 10,000 AF, 2) diversions of 30 cfs between June 1 and September 30, or 3) diversions of over 20 % of flows Board-identified streams with species of concern.  Telemetered diversions must be reported weekly online – since this doesn’t start for 3-1/4 years, the Board will announce later how it is to be reported.
  • There were lots of vendors with hundreds of possible solutions to measure flows.  Costs are coming down and manufacturers are getting more innovative.  They still cost money though – the rule is, the more spent on devices, the better they will work for years, with less hassle.  Less up-front cost means more maintenance, more upkeep.  No surprise there, that’s how it is for trucks, houses, tractors, and computers.
Delta Watermaster Michael Patrick George. Photo credit: waterboards.ca.gov

In the afternoon, Delta Watermaster Michael Patrick George gave a great presentation on the progress of Delta regulations.  Some of the main points are:

  • There are 2,800 diversions, and measurement and reporting compliance is proceeding nicely.
  • Delta diverters are recognizing that measuring device compliance, although it can be costly, is the easiest thing to do.
  • Alternative compliance rules are in place and working!  Mr. George’s slide show is not online yet, but soon will be.
  • Mr. George points out that there is one set of rules and laws for the State, although application may be a little different for a flat Delta with tidal flows.  What I believe will happen is that Alternative Compliance for the State will be the same as already exists for the Delta.  This means:  1) the Water Board will not approve or deny, but may comment on Alternative Compliance plans.  2) As long as someone is working Pixabay_water-340468_1280to comply the Water Board will work with the diverter.  The first response from the Board will NOT be a Cease and Desist Order if a diverter is communicating.  3) Plans will be posted online, and so anyone may comment or point out their real or alleged deficiencies.  The effect is that if a diverter says it is too expensive to comply normally and has an ineffective plan, the diverter’s neighbors and state and federal resource agencies will likely complain to the Board that the plan is deficient.
  • Lauren Barva, lauren.barva@waterboards.ca.gov, is the main Water Board staff contact for Delta diverters.  If she does not know the answer, she will make sure a Delta diverter gets an answer from the right person.
  • Paul Wells, paul.wells@waterboards.ca.gov, is the main Water Board staff contact for NON-Delta diverters.  If he does not know the answer, he will make sure a NON-Delta diverter gets an answer from the right person.

Sticking_Weir_zoom_sharpenedKathy Mrowka and Nathan came back and did a great job of explaining how stockponds and other ponds can comply, including the use of staff gages and stage-storage curves.  There will be more information online shortly.

Kathy also discussed the Report Management System (RMS).  She said:

  • All reporting is now online, and the form is standard.  That means regardless of whether you are reporting on your new measurement device, or your monthly diversions, or your stockpond use, the form will be the same.
  • If you have corrections, they can be made any time after the submittal deadline.
  • If you are filling out a form, you can save your entries, leave, and come back and still edit your form up until the time the ‘SUBMIT” button is pressed.
  • The Board is updating their FAQ right now, and they will soon update their “How to Work with the Board” document.

Here is the draft form to request additional time (up to 24 months) to comply:  SWRCB_DRAFT_Request_Addl_Time_bw.pdf

By the way, there is a parking lot right across

Cal EPA Front Enttance.  Photo Credit: Cal EPA

the street from the EPA building, at 10th and I streets.  It was full so I parked out at the City of Sacramento Parking structure at 14th and H; I needed the 4-block-walk for exercise anyway.

That’s enough for now!  I will be out of town for a couple of days, and I will write more then.  A good night to all!

Alternative Compliance Form? Not Yet

I keep getting the question: Is the Water Board‘s Alternative Compliance form available yet?  Not according to the unchanged text at:  Water Rights: Water Use Reports and Measurement.  We were promised it would be online before the Information Fair on Water Measurement and Reporting, so technically the form would still beat the deadline by next Monday (8/22) at 9:59 A.M, or someone might be working on it this weekend.

Have a great weekend, everyone, and I am hopeful for summer rains!

August 13 Post – Alternative Compliance Form Coming “Soon”


Alternative Compliance Form Soon…Before Aug. 22 Water Board Info. Fair On Meas. & Reporting

The SB 88 Alternative Compliance form is not out yet.  I was promised it would be out before the August 22 Information Fair On Water Measurement And Reporting in Sacramento.  I will be at the Fair – hopefully we’ll get some more information:

  • What kinds of alternative compliance will be accepted?
  • Is the Board going to send out letters, or make phone calls, starting January 1, to all diverters who do not have certified measurement devices?
  • How does the Board see the compliance time frame in 2017?  For example, will diverters be okay if their devices are installed, logging data, and certified, before they start diverting for the season?

I’ll let you know what I find out.  Have a great weekend!