eWRIMS Board Water Rights Search – Part 2

In Part 1 of this discussion, we looked at the different types of water rights included in the Water Board’s eWRIMS water rights search Water_Board_eWRIMS_screenshotdatabase.  Now we’ll talk about how to narrow down your search to find just the water rights of interest.  The majority of questions people have are about their own water rights.  How can you find out what eWRIMS has about your water right?

If you pick the eWRIMS Database System link, and hit the “Accept” button at the bottom of the next page, you’ll arrive at at the Water Rights Records Search pageWater Rights Records Search screenshot - Edited.  This looks like a data entry form, and allows you to search by water right type, status, ID, county, etc., and most relevant for finding your own, by Primary Owner.  Whoops!  I sure thought it was – it is now disabled.    Maybe that’s temporary, but even a couple of weeks ago I was able to put in “California”, for example, and find the rights held by State agencies.  As a matter of fact, none of the searches I am trying right now even list any results in the “Holder Name column.

UPDATE:  Search by Primary Owner is working again as of June 29, 2016 at 8:30 A.M.  Thanks, eWRIMS folks for restoring it!

Next, try your County, Source (River name or Source Name), Entity Type, and Hayfork Creek Trinityany other information that you know.  This will give you a list of results.  For example, entering Trinity for County and Hayfork Creek for Source yields 31 results.  Without the “Holder Name” listed it is tough to tell which one is yours…unless you also know one of your IDs.  If that functionality is restored that it makes it easy.  One CAVEAT – if you or the previous owner have not updated the current owner (as the Board requires), then the person’s name will be some previous owner.  You’ll likely recognize it.

eWRIMS GIS Hayfork - EditedIf “you can’t get there from here”, then you can search by map, in the eWRIMS Web Mapping Application (GIS).  The map starts by showing all of California and you zoom in to your area.  When you zoom in far enough, you’ll see rectangular labels of various colors start to appear.  You can click on these to see the individual Application, Permit, License, or Statement of Use.  The screenshot above shows part of Hayfork Creek in Trinity County.

If you have not used eWRIMS, try it out for your and your neighbors’ water rights.  Remember, most riparian and nearly all adjudicated water rights will NOT show up here, but pre-1914, post-1914, some riparian, and some other rights will.  Next time we’ll talk about some of the information you can find on forms for the various rights and statements.

For now, happy water rights searching!

AllWaterRights Blog Moving To ShawnPike.com / eWRIMS Board Water Rights Search – Part 1

The AllWaterRights Blog is Moving!  http://www.shawnpike.com is my permanent site, and as soon as I get the formatting done all the new posts will be over there.

In the meantime, how does someone search for water rights in California?  It used to be an onerous task – and today it is only half-onerous.  🙂  Actually the Water Board gets more information every day and puts it into the Electronic Water Rights Information Management System – eWRIMS for short (pronouncedWater_Board_eWRIMS_screenshot ee-rims).  This screenshot shows the two important links.  The first is to the database, which gives text tables of results and links to some form-entered documents, and some scanned documents.  The second link goes to the geographic information system (GIS), which consists of mapped points linked to the database, on top of reference maps.

What can you find here?  In short, nearly all the post-1914 appropriative Water Rights Applications, Permits, and Licenses can be found here.  Most of the pre-1914 appropriative, and an increasing number of riparian water rights can be found here.  The 2009 water laws that increased reporting requirements and greatly increased penalties, moved most water right holders who had not been filing, to get on the train and avoid the pain.  If you search with no parameters, then the database returns a listing of all records, over 52,000 right now.eWRIMS_query_all_edited

What’s missing?  Nearly all adjudicated water rights are not found on eWRIMS.  There are thousands of rights defined in numerous Superior Court Decrees, that are not found in the database.  Statements of Use are filed for these rights, but not in a form that is easy to put into eWRIMS.  Where could you find these?  We’ll cover that in future posts.

http://www.shawnpike.com is up and running, right now with the brief front page.  More to come soon!  A good night to all.

Can I lose my water right?

This is a question that comes up all over California, every day.  It usually comes in one Headgate on streamof two ways:

  1. I’m about to buy some land.  Will I have a water right if the previous owner did not use it for X years ?
  2. 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 are major exceptions, 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.

Diversion box to field“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 pasture with cattle, or 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.

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:

Notice_proposed_revocation

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.

Diversion box from diversion

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.

Credit: Pixabay
Courthouse.  Photo Credit: Pixabay

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.

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.

Do Something Wrong, Instead Of Nothing!

Do something wrong, rather than nothing at all. Have you ever heard that before? I have heard it from Army veteran friends, a boss, even an elder of a church.

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 a bad guy or an enemy 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!

Man working in ditch CostaDisc2-129 - EditedWhat 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 try to measure flow if the Water Board, your watermaster, or your neighbor is promising painful consequences. Even stick boards in a ditch and seal the sides with gravel – something to take positive action to reduce future pain.

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? 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?

Surface water and groundwater are getting 10 times the attention they were prior to 2009. If the Water Board, or California Fish and Wildlife, or any other agency comes along, do something, anything, to comply sooner, even if it’s not the ultimate solution. Two posts ago, bureaucrats were discussed – they are still human beings and most people appreciate some effort to “get with the program”.

Be proactive, take some inexpensive 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, diversion practices, or acreening, can pay back a lot more when you have to deal with agencies, a court, or an angry neighbor in the future.

How Can You Keep Up With The Water Board?

SWRCB_EmailSub_Header

How can anyone keep up with all the new regulations from the California Water Board?  Subscribe to the email lists affecting you (links below).

It’s impossible to keep up with everything, so we have to pick and choose.  But the pace of Water Board regulations is already jet-speed and headed toward hypersonic.  It’s wise for everyone who diverts surface water to subscribe to relevant email lists and then at least scan the ones that look important.  The link for all Water Board Subscriptions is:

http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/resources/email_subscriptions/

The link for statewide issues is below.  I think I counted 174 possible email lists, but you can probably pick the 10 that affect you the most and keep up pretty well by reading these:

http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/resources/email_subscriptions/swrcb_subscribe.shtml

Of course, AllWaterRights.com, this blog, will highlight the most important issues for surface water diversion measurement, water rights, laws, and regulations.  Come back often and you’ll see one or two new posts each week.  🙂

As a bonus for those of you who read this post, here are a couple of Death Valley photos my wife and I took last weekend.  This year there is a super bloom!  Last year was very wet, DeathValleySuperBloomand while we were there were good showers in several parts of the valley.

There is also stunningly beautiful geology, with colors ranging from white to black, and in between amazing hues of green, red, blue, orange, yellow, purple….  It’s the first time we had ever been there in daylight and we want to go back.  If it is raining in Death Valley, that bodes well for all of California this year.DeathValleyGeology_2

Good night all, and enjoy the rain and snow!

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:

20160108_prop_regs_S_933_meas_dev_Part_2_of_4

20160108_prop_regs_S_933_meas_dev_Part_3_of_4

20160108_prop_regs_S_933_meas_dev_Part_4_of_4

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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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