Do Something Wrong, Instead Of Nothing Right

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.

Ready-to-install 3-inch Montana Cutthroat Flume

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:

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

Temporary Weir In Ditch

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.

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[Update/Repost] 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.

Take a look at the blog posts here.  There is enough information and how-to directions, that you might be able to do it right!  Check out these posts:

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 50 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.

Update – Who To Call At The Board?

A question I often hear is, “Hey, I got this letter/a call from the State Water Resources Control Board.  What am I supposed to do about measuring my flow?”  The main number for the Water Board is (916) 341-5300 – and these folks have much more work to do than time to do it.  Several calls may be required to reach a knowledgeable person who isn’t already talking to two telephone calls, or making three investigations in the field.  So, start with the main contact, Paul Wells, who is very knowledgeable and can get you the answers or the person you need to talk to.

By the way, Thank You to Kathy Mrowka, who has been reasonable in working with diverters who are trying to comply.  What she says often is true:  talk with her and/or others at the Water Board and you’ll likely get consideration, some more time to comply, and reduced (maybe greatly reduced) fines.

Since many calls I get are about enforcement letters, calls, or visits from the Board, it’s probably most useful to have the phone numbers and emails from Enforcement Program Staff.  Here they are, from the Water Rights Enforcement Program Web Page:

Enforcement Program Staff

Katherine Mrowka, Manager
(916) 341-5363
Kathy.Mrowka@waterboards.ca.gov
Paul Wells, Senior WRCE Specialist
(916) 323-5195
Paul.Wells@waterboards.ca.gov

 

Central Coast/So. Cal Unit San Joaquin Valley Unit
Laura Lavallee, Supervisor
(916) 341-5422
Laura.Lavallee@waterboards.ca.gov

 

Ramon Ruiz
(916) 341-5411
Ramon.Ruiz@waterboards.ca.gov

Kyle Wooldridge
(916) 323-9405
Kyle.Wooldridge@waterboards.ca.gov

Janelle Heinzler
(916) 323-9406
Janelle.Heinzler@waterboards.ca.gov

Dave LaBrie
(916) 341-5343
Dave.Labrie@waterboards.ca.gov

Brian Coats, Supervisor
(916) 341-5389
Brian.Coats@waterboards.ca.gov

 

Chuck Arnold
(916) 341-5634
Chuck.Arnold@waterboards.ca.gov

Matt Quint
(916) 341-5380
Matthew.Quint@waterboards.ca.gov

Damon Hess
(916) 341-5345
Damon.Hess@waterboards.ca.gov

Jeff Yeazell
(916) 341-5322
Jeff.Yeazell@waterboards.ca.gov

Sacramento Valley Unit North Coast Unit
Victor Vasquez, Supervisor
(916) 323-9407
Victor.Vasquez@waterboards.ca.gov

 

Michael Contreras
(916) 341-5307
Michael.Contreras@waterboards.ca.gov

Kathy Bare
(916) 327-3113
Kathy.Bare@waterboards.ca.gov

Oxcar Macias
(916) 341-5637
Oxcar.Macias@waterboards.ca.gov

Natalie Stork
(916) 322-8425
Natalie.Stork@waterboards.ca.gov

Tomas Eggers
916-327-8039
Tomas.Eggers@waterboards.ca.gov

Taro Murano, Supervisor
(916) 341-5399
Taro.Murano@waterboards.ca.gov

 

Michael Vella
(916) 327-3114
Michael.Vella@waterboards.ca.gov

Skyler Anderson
(916) 341-5355
Skyler.Anderson@waterboards

Kevin Porzio
(916) 323-9391
Kevin.Porzio@waterboards.ca.gov

Bill Rigby
(916) 341-5376
Bill.Rigby@waterboards.ca.gov

Vacant

How Do I …. ? (Determine My Water Rights, Measure Flows, Report Flows , Etc.)

See the new “How Do I … ?” link on the left.  There are so many posts on this blog, it is getting harder to find stuff.  Click on the link, or right-click then “Open link in new tab”, and the big questions are linked to the appropriate blog posts.

Another way to search is, as always, Google.  For example, googling “allwaterrights measure weir” brings up the following results:

ggl_awr_meas_weir

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.

EconomicsOfFlowMeasStructures

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 3

In Part 2, How Do I Comply With Water Board Regulations? Part 2, we considered the question:  Who has to have a certified, accurate device by January 1, 2017? How often is it monitored?  The answer is, those who divert 1,000 acre-feet (AF) per year or more, and it has to be monitored hourly.  Shawn_pointing_with_ruleWhat size diversion is this, really?  An irrigation diversion of 1,000 AF over 6 months, with flows starting at 100% of the water right, declining to 50% of the right by the end of the season (month 6) would calculate out to a water right of 3.68 cubic feet per second (cfs), or about 3.7 to 4.0 cfs (cfs).  Depending on where you are, that irrigates somewhere between 80 and 400 acres of hay or pasture.

In this post, I’ll answer 2 questions:

  1. What if your water right is smaller than 3.7 cfs, diverting 100 AF to 1,000 AF per year?
  2. A BIG question right now: What is “alternative compliance”, and how might it be done to meet the Water Board’s regulations?

Shawn_pointing_at_orificeTo answer the first question, the next category down is 100 AF to 1,000 AF per year.  Using the example of a 6-month irrigation season, with a diversion that starts at 100% of the water right and gradually declines to 50%, the water right we’re talking about is about 0.37 to 3.7 contracted_weircfs.  This category does not have to comply as quickly – the deadline is July 1, 2017, or nearly a year from now.  The measurement frequency is daily, which is possible to be done by a diligent person, if not not recorded automatically.  For a sense of how much water this is, depending on where you are, what the soils are like, and how efficient the diversion is, the acreage of hay or pasture irrigated ranges from about 8 to 370 acres.

What kind of measurement devices would meet the regulations?  The same types that we discussed in Part 2, but ranging down to smaller sizes:

  • weirs as little as 0.5′ (0.5 feet, or 6″) wide, or wider with boards cut to make contracted weirs
  • free-flowing orifices with holes down to 0.16 x 0.16′ (2″ x 2″) square and a piece of steel plate to adjust it smaller
  • submerged orifices down to 0.25′ x 0.25′ (3″ x 3″) with an adjustment plate.
  • small flumes and meters

The photos above show smaller-sized devices than the 4′ weirs shown in earlier posts.

The second, and these days much BIGGER question, what about alternative compliance?  The Water Board requires submission of alternative compliance plans on a form that is not yet available.  If it were my diversion, I would not worry about tWaterBoard_Meas_AlterComp_Para - Editedhat; I would put together my plan and send it in.  The old rule applies that if you are not sure who to send it to, send it to several managers and maybe a Deputy Director.  Emailing documents is cheaper; most computers will let you print to PDFs that can be emailed.  Your submittal probably will not be accepted this way but the point is, the Water Board cannot say that you have not attempted to comply.  Not complying at all can be very expensive; “Do something wrong, instead of nothing at all.”

 

SOU_alternative_methods - EditedThis screenshot is from an OLD, no longer valid Statement Of Use form, but it
gives some ideas of what options for alternative compliance the Water Board has in mind.

What has to be in your alternative compliance plan?  From the Water Board’s ADOPTED TEXT OF EMERGENCY REGULATION, the text gives 12 parts that must be in the plan (below).  The plan may be rejected – having a plan (instead of a standard, certified measurement device) is no guarantee that the Board will accept it.  In summary, the plan must detail contacts for all people on a ditch, Assessor Parcel Numbers, the water right(s), priority(ies), use(s), diversion(s), ditch(es) and/or pipe(s), measurement frequency and methods, dates for milestones and completion, permits required, financing plan, and map(s) showing the plan area including all physical features and place of use…and all of this must be signed by all water right holders on the ditch (the emphasized text in the bullet points is mine):

“…………  §935 Alternative Compliance for a Measuring Device or Measurement Method Requirement.

(a) Alternative Compliance – Generally. In circumstances where strict compliance with sections 933 or 934 of this title is not feasible, would be unreasonably expensive, would unreasonably affect public trust uses, or would result in the waste or unreasonable use of water, a diverter may submit an alternative compliance plan.

(b) Minimum Standards – an alternative compliance plan under subdivision (a) shall meet the following minimum standards:

(1) The plan shall include the following information:

(A) The name and contact information for all diverters covered by the plan;
(B) The name and contact information for the person designated to represent all diverters covered by the plan in matters before the board;
(C) Identification of each individual water right type and priority covered by the plan;
(D) A detailed description of the area served by the plan, including all points of diversion whether used or not used, all methods of diversion, any conveyance systems, all beneficial uses of water, and all acreage served;
(E) The assessor’s parcel numbers and ownership within the area covered by the plan;
(F) Identification of the proposed measurement frequency;
(G) Identification of the proposed measurement methodology;
(H) Topographic map(s) or aerial photograph(s) of the area covered by the plan that show the separate places of use authorized to be served by claimed water rights covered by the plan and showing the acreage served;
(I) An implementation schedule, including date-specific, objective milestones of plan implementation from date of filing through final implementation, including the estimated milestones for acquiring permits required for plan implementation and the estimated milestones for compliance with the California Environmental Quality Act, if required;
(J) Budget for implementation of the plan and the source(s) of financing for the plan;
(K) A list of any permits required for plan implementation, the agencies that will issue the permits, and expected dates for issuance;
(L)
An affirmation, signed by all diverters covered by the plan, that the plan will be implemented in accordance with the schedule contained therein and that all claimed water rights covered by the plan will not be exercised outside the scope of the plan  …………”

New_Weir