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”


Additonal Wrinkle in June 2016 Stockpond Letter to Assemblymember Dahle

This is old news but it does answer a few questions about stockponds.  Are they different from other diversions?  In the Water Board’s letter of reply to Assemblymember Dahle, the answer is that diversions to stockponds are the same as any other.  If the total diversion to the pond is more than 10 AF/year, then the diversion must be measured, as shown in the excerpt just below.

However, there is an additional wrinkle.  If the total of several rights stored in the pond exceeds 10 AF/year, then all diversion(s) to the pond must beScreenshot 2016-08-14 at 19.59.04 - Editedmeasured.  Although this would be an unusual case, 2 diverters could have small diversions, say 6 AF/year, diverted to the same pond.  Each diversion would have to be measured because, even though each falls under the 10 AF/year threshold, together they total 12 AF/year, exceeding the 10 AF/year limit.  If each diverter had a separate pond, then neither diversion would have to be measured.

This is sort of the same logic the Board uses when several diverters share one ditch.  Even if each right is under one of the threshold levels (10, 100 or 1,000 AF/year), if the summed diversion is over the next higher level, then the next higher requirements apply, either making the compliance date sooner, or requiring higher accuracy and certification.  If each diverter had a separate ditch, then all would remain at the lower level of compliance.

This is an excerpt and link to the Water Rights: Water Use Reports and Measurement web page where the letter to Assemblymember Dahle is linked:


How is a person supposed to keep up with regulations, and make sure they comply?  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 are getting your water right, and cut off complaints from other diverters.  The phone call is free to discuss your diversion,  (530) 526-0134, and email is also free at RightsToWaterEng1@gmail.com.

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!



Accurate, Economical Flume for LARGE Diversions


Photo on the right:  Intermountain Environmental Inc. Nuway Ramp Flume with stilling well, 20 cubic feet per second (cfs) capacity.  Shipped disassembled including fasteners; stilling well not included (but inexpensive to add).

20 cfs irrigates 400 to 2,000 acres of crops, trees, pasture, or hay, depending on where you are.  As a Professional Engineer with wide experience installing and operating flow measurement devices, I can solve your headaches, heartburn, and trouble meeting the Water Board’s Regulations, diverting 20 cfs, for as little as $6,000 with one of these flumes.  These flumes can go in an almost flat ditch, needing a water drop of less than 4″, and still maintaining accuracy of plus or minus 5%, twice what is needed by the Water Board.  Smaller flumes cost less; even larger diversions could use 2 of these side by side.

eTape - EditedFrank Crowe, farmer/rancher and the neighbor of some readers of this blog, has been doing research for 7 months on all possible flow measurement and datalogging devices.  He has found some lower-cost options, including the Nuway flumes, that in past years, I did not think would work well. After checking into them, I know many of these can save Track-it - Editedyou headaches, anguish, trouble, and some money.  Technology has improved and computing costs have come down to make smaller, less expensive data loggers very useful for diversions.  For example, the eTape sensor and Track-It datalogger shown here, and similar equipment from other manufacturers, will work well for many diversions:

Frank checked into the smallest Nuway flume, for 3.5 cfs, and found that the cost is fairly low at $580.  With a size of about 12″ wide, 15″ high, and 48″ long, it will be easy for one person to assemble and would be possible to install by hand, without a backhoe.

Larry Forero, County Director oSWRCB_Alternative_Compliance_Summary - Editedf the Cooperative Extension in Shasta County, has been doing a great job of searching and asking the how diverters can comply with the law economically, particularly through alternative methods.  The “Alternative Compliance” form will be available any day now on the Water Board’s website.  Larry has also been checking on devices, costs, and applicability for particular locations and uses.

Intermountain_Env_Nuway_Flume_Brochure_Photo - Edited

Most diversions will have to comply using standard, accepted methods of measurement and recording data.  Following up on Frank’s reseaIEI_homepage - Editedrch, I contacted Intermountain Environmental, Inc. in Utah and asked Josh Hanks about their 10 cfs and 20 cfs galvanized flumes.   They cost $1,017 and $1,995 respectively.  Shipping would be less than $300. Josh provided detailed information, including how these flumes have performed in the field.  They are designed and built to be plus or minus 5% accurate, well within the Water Board’s regulation of +/- 10% accuracy as certified in the field.  Many installations have worked with soil backfill only, instead of poured concrete.  Installations will probably require a mass-concrete anchor, and may need steel plate inlet wingwall extensions, or outlet wingwalls added.

The bottom line, what does it cost for me to solve your problem, and to purchase, install, attach a datalogger, and certify the device to the satisfaction of the Water Board?  For the largest flume, which can measure up to 20 cfs, in a typical location with vehicle access, I can have these working right, logging data, and certified for you, for $6,000 to $9,000.  Telemetry and/or solar power, if needed or required by the Water Board, could add another $1,000 to $4,000.

Done!  No more headaches, turmoil, or trouble for you, and I will have the pleasure of helping you keeping your business working well.

SB-88 Compliance Information, Nice to Meet Diverters at the NCWA / Farm Bureau / Cattleman Meeting Last Night

Good morning, California diverters.  It was great to meet you folks last night in Hat Creek!  Thank you to Henry and Pam Giacomini and Mark and Debbie Bidwell for inviting me up to the combined meeting of the Northeastern California Water Association, Farm Bureau, and Cattlemen’s and Cattlewomen’s Associations.

This blog is to help solve diverters’ headaches by providing peace of mind and helping stay out of trouble.  Here are some posts aiming to do just that:









The links above will get you halfway to knowing what to do to comply.  The other half is in other blog posts, on water flow measurement devices, how to measure flow, and other topics.  Have a great day and rest of the week!

Can You Save Some Bucks? Flow Device Economics by CDWR

What is the cheapest flow measurement device to install, that is durable, accurate, and easy to maintain?  The California Department of Water Resources (CDWR) Red Bluff office wrote a memo in October of 2010, detailing findings on flow measurement devices over decades of watermaster service.  Part of the memo is summarized here – not direct quotes:

Economics of Flow Measurement Devices

CDWR watermasters helped water right holders to install and operate a variety of structures over eight decades.  Physical factors such as flow range, ditch width and slope, soil type, whether or not a site is protected from livestock, and access to the site, play a large role in picking the right device.  Cost is also important,  including design, installation, replacement, operation, maintenance and repair.

The following chart shows the relative costs that the watermaster service and water right holders have experienced for various devices. The chart shows that pre-built weirs are the least expensive to install and repair. Flumes are the least expensive to operate, but are the most expensive to design and construct or install.


Some considerations for the proper use of weirs are:

  1.  Always seal leaky flashboards with sediment, horse manure if available, and if necessary, sheet plastic.  Use newer flashboards, replaced every year or two, and trim boards on site to ensure a level top board, and reduce gaps prior to use.
  2.  1.5 inch (2″ nominal lumber e.g. 2″ x 8″) flashboards are not measurably less accurate than a thin steel plate metal with sharp edges, provided that the head on the weir is great enough to cause separation of the water from the upstream edge of the flashboard.  The air bubble on top of the board is easy to see when the weir is working right.  The minimum required head is around 0.25 feet.  As an example, CDWR watermasters compared the use of flashboards to
    sharp-crested weirs on November 20, 2008, as they have done several times in the past.  Differences were recorded and weirs with flashboards had flows that were both slightly less and slightly more than the flows calculated for sharp-crested weirs.  Any difference is well below the margin of error when taking into account all possible errors.  In summary, 1.5-inch flashboards provide results indistinguishable from sharp-crested weirs for the use of measuring diverted flows.
  3.  CDWR designed the Briggs-manufactured Twin-Track Wsuppressed_weir_jackson_smalleirs© with two flashboard slots.  The upstream flashboard slot holds the nominal 2-inch wide weir flashboards.  The downstream slot provides the air gap for the nappe, as specified in the USBR Water Measurement Manual, 3rd Edition, 2001, in Figure 7-8 on Page 7-13.
  4.  CDWR measures weir heads wSticking_Weir_zoom_sharpenedith weir sticks, as specified in the USBR Water
    Measurement Manual, 3
    rd Edition, 2001, on Page 13-4.  CDWR has checked the use of weir sticks numerous times and found the difference between the head measured with a weir stick and that at a staff gage nearly always to be 0.00 feet (the same to the hundredth of a foot).
  5.  Even when diverters are careful, the amount delivered may occasionally be somewhat more than the water right as streamflows vary due to diurnal fluctuation, changes in upstream diversions, and from increased flows due to storm events.  However, more than half the time when flows are not at the legal amount, they are less than the water right amount for the following reasons:
  • Floating debris sometimes accumulates on the upstream side of a diversion headgate, reducing flow.
  • Water right holders who grow hay shut off their diversions to cut, dry, bale and haul hay for several days, reducing their total volume of diversion.
  • Irrigation season damage to ditches requires diversions to be reduced or stopped during repairs.
  • Weed growth or sediment in the ditch reduces the hydraulic capacity of ditches.

Smart Ranchers & Farmers Save Money for Them AND You

A local farmer, rancher, and apiarist, whose name you likely know, referred me to a pretty smart ranching friend of his who has been researching more cost effective flow measurement and data collection schemes.  This retired aircraft engineer has found data collection devices with installed costs in the $500 – $600 range, instead of $1,200 up to $20,000.  I’ll publish their names if they agree later; they should have a chance to read this before they put their names on it.

They aim to save themselves and all of you some of your hard-earned money.  I really wantPMC_page - Edited to see what data collection setups are available, hopefully this week there will be an all-in-one system that meets State requirements and is not such a budget-buster.  There are also be some pre-fabricated flow measurement devices that can be easily dropped in a flat ditch where a weir (the least expensive device) won’t work, saving money compared to a formed-up flume.

From my years at DWR, my coworkers and I dealt with the trade-off between high accuracy and durability, at a high cost, and reasonable accuracy and lower durability for less money.  This was always the tension, whether acquiring surveying equipment, portable flow measurement devices, or flow gaging components like data collectors, bubbler pressure sensors, or GOES satellite radios.

Time_Cost_Scope_triangleYou have probably seen this triangle before – it is useful for planning prrojects.  For the purposes of evaluating data collectors at diversions, Time is the owner’s, contractor’s, or engineer’s level of effort to make a diversion comply with the law.  Scope is meeting the Water Board requirements – the length of that side cannot change.  Everyone, including me, wants to reduce the Cost side of the triangle.  Reducing Time means getting the labor, equipment rental, engineer’s report, and certification done cheaper – it’s the other way to reduce cost.

What is the effect of reducing cost?  The size of the triangle equals quality, and that goes down.  How much loss of quality is acceptable?  In the case of data collectors, quality equates with the durability – maybe the device will only last 2 years instead of 4, or maybe it is twice as likely to quit working in the middle of an irrigation season.  If quality goes down too much, then the data collection scheme will not meet Water Board requirements.

On the other hand, computer technology and sensors have improved over the years.  Computing costs a tiny fraction of what it once did.  Sensors have come down in cost a little, while their quality has improved somewhat.  Maybe we can get just-fine data collection at half the cost – we’ll see!

How Do I Comply With Water Board Regulations? Part 2

In Part 1, How Do I Comply With Water Board Regulations? , we looked at what water flow measurement devices will meet and exceed the Board’s requirements.  The questions right back to me were:  1) Yeah, but which dates apply to me?  and 2) Yeah, but what about monitoring and collecting data and reporting?  How do I do that?Board_2017_Table

  1.  Who has to have a certified, accurate device by January 1, 2017?  How often is it monitored?

This is the “worst case” if I am not already compliant – less than 6 months from today!  The first to have to report are those who divert 1,000 acre-feet or more per year, or store 1,000 acre-feet or more per year.  The reporting has to be hourly, or 8,760 data points per year.  The average rate of diversion for 365 days is 1.38 cubic feet per second (cfs) (which I had rounded to 1.40 cfs in previous posts).  That’s equal to 620 gallons per minute (gpm), or 2.74 AF/day.

What if all the flow is diverted just for the irrigation season?  Let’s use 6 months for simplicity – the average rate of flow is 2.76 cfs.  Available flows dropAbout_1.4_cfs_over_weir_edited_small as the summer proceeds, so what size of water right are we really looking at?  Let’s say flows decline evenly from 100% at the beginning, to 50% of available flows at the end of 6 months.  The right that would divert 1,000 AF per year under these conditions is 3.68 cfs.  The summary is, if my water right is, say, 4 cfs or more, then it is very likely I will be in this category.  The weir shown abovJohn_Headgate_edite is a 4′ weir, capable of measuring up to 4 cfs very accurately, at plus or minus 5% (sometimes better) accuracy with new lumber.  A headgate like the one to the left is easily capable of passing 4 cfs and, if the gate is used as a measurement orifice, the accuracy can be 5%, certainly within plus or minus 10% if care is used with an older gate.

I can get that 4′ weir shown above installed and working for somewhere between $2,000 and $10,000 – depending on how difficult the access is to the site, whether native materials can be used, or 3/4″ base rock and 12″ protective rock have to be hauled in, and whether I already have a backhoe or excavator to install it.  The headgate will cost more than that, maybe $3,000 to $12,000.  A larger bulkhead or box is required, and good gates can cost quite a bit.

A larger diversion will have to use a larger weir or orifice, or more likely a flume or acoustic measurement device.  That makes sense – the larger the flow, the more complicated it is to measure.

How do I report hourly flows?  I sure can’t run out to the diversion every hour, so that means I have to use some kind of automawl16ted flow GE_PT878measurement device.  The G.E. Panametrics acoustic Doppler meter on the left is an option, and it or an in-line propeller meter, or an inline mag-meter, will be necessary for some configurations of diversions (pumped or very flat).  The price starts at $5,000, though.  If I have enough fall (drop in water elevation), I would sure rather put in a weir, orifice, or flume.  A weir or flume can use a water level measurement device and data collector like the water level logger above on the right.  That Global Water device is relatively durable, takes readings as often as desired, and can store data for months.  It costs a little over $1,000.  Oh, and if the orifice is submerged, so that the hole is underwater both upstream and downstream, then I will need two water level loggers, for $2,000.

Some folks at the Water Board are talking about telemetered data, meaning the data is sent to a remote location, or even available online.  This would only be necessary if there were a great possibility FTS_GOES - Editedthat the diversion would be tampered with, or if it is a large diversion having a big impact on the amount of flow left in the stream.  This has little benefit for anyone at most diversions.  I would only install it if the need were very clear to me and everyone else.  The added cost can be anywhere from $1,000 for short-range radio, to $20,000 or more for a full-on gaging station like you see on streams.  The annual cost of operation and maintenance goes up, too.

How do I read the data on thesnotebook-405755_1280e devices, so I can report it to the Water Board?  Well, that takes some expertise.  If I have 5 diversions from a creek, I’ll make sure my foreman knows how to do it, and handle it myself.  If I have 1 or 2 diversions, then it’s more cost effective for me to have a professional do it, and to maintain it periodically.  Reading that data takes a laptop to hook up to the USB port, and the software that comes with the device, and the expertise to look at the data Sticking_Weirand make sure it’s reasonable.  The data that is recorded is “stage”, or water surface elevation.  Using the correct weir, orifice, or flume equation, or table from the Water Measurement Manual, the stages have to be converted to flows.  For hourly flows, that means 8,760 data points per year, which will require a spreadsheet like Excel to make the conversions.  A BIG caution is that if the boards are changed, it has to be written down WMM_Cover_smalland then a different zero-flow datum used to convert stages to flows starting when the change was made.

2.  Who has to have a certified, accurate device by July 1, 2017?  How often is it reported?

The “next worst case” is for those diversions from 100 AF to 1,000 AF per year – irrigation water rights of about 0.35 to 3.5 cfs.  These have to be recorded daily.  The measurement devices are the same, but smaller.  It is possible someone might grab a reading every day…but it is more likely that these will also have some kind of automated water level logger.  More on these later.  Have a great weekend!

Water Board Legal Actions, Part 1

The Water Board takes legal actions against individuals, associations, companies, etc. (parties), regarding diversions, surface and groundwater pollution, mis-reporting or not reporting diversions, noncompliance with permits and licenses, underground storage tanks, and more.  Prior to assessing fines, Water Board managers, attorneys, or staff make phone calls to to the suspected parties, and they may make field visits to confirm allegations or gather more information.  Sometimes that’s enough – a phone call or visit may move a person to change practices, or take corrective action, and comply with the law.swrcb_complaints_program

The Water Board will follow up their calls or visits with a letter summarizing the facts, allegations, and actions taken by parties.  That may close out a complaint (if that is how the actions came to the Board’s attention) or may complete an investigation, with the provision that the promised corrective action will be done.CDO page

Their letters may seek information about alleged infractions, or may be cease and desist orders, or may convey the results of investigations and hearings including what fines or other penalties are assessed.


CWC page

The Water Board relies on the California Water Code, case law from lawsuits in the State Superior Courts or other courts, and those resolutions, orders, and decisions made by the Board itself, which it designates as “precedential”.  That means the Board looks back at these documents to help make decisions in the future.SWRCB ROD prec

In many cases the Board does not act alone, since it is just one of many California state and federal agencies.  It may combine its efforts with the California Department of Fish and Wildlife (CDFW, was Fish and Game), the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS), the State Attorney General (AG), the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE)…the list could include many more.  How does this cooperation with other agencies work?

The Water Board has authority over many water rights and uses of water, but other agencies have the primary authority over other uses of water.  For example, CDFW has authority over the California Fish and Game Code, which gives guidance on how much water must be left in streams by diverters.  Solid scientific studies must be made to prove how much water is needed.  In place (or pending the outcome) of these expensive, long-term studies, CDFW determines and/or negotiates flow amounts, and the Water Board uses their power to convince diverters to comply.  This works because CDFW could not prove the exact need in the near future, and CDFW is very reluctant to go to court to sue diverters.  However, the Water Board can act on the “best available information” or “reasonable estimates” to determine how much water must be left…and the Water Board can assess fines by itself without having to go to the Superior Court.  This makes for some very interesting stories…and those will be taken up in a later post.wbwa