Water Rights Holders Must Measure Stream Diversions

UC Cooperative Extension Offering Water Measurement and Reporting Courses April 4

News Release

California water rights holders are required by state law to measure and report the water they divert from surface streams. For people who wish to take the water measurements themselves, the University of California Cooperative Extension is offering training to receive certification April 4 in Redding and Woodland.

At the workshop, participants will:

  • Clarify reporting requirements for ranches.
  • Understand which meters are appropriate for different situations.
  • Learn how to determine measurement equipment accuracy.
  • Develop an understanding of measurement weirs.
  • Learn how to calculate and report volume from flow data.

UC Cooperative Extension is offering a limited number of trainings in 2019. The next training will be held at Shasta College Farm and Yolo County Fairgrounds:

  • Yolo County Fairgrounds in Woodland – Register at http://cecapitolcorridor.ucanr.edu or by emailing Morgan Doran at mpdoran@ucanr.edu or calling the UCCE office in Yolo County at (530) 666-8143. Training will begin at 2 p.m. and should conclude by 5 p.m.

Background on the water diversion law

Senate Bill 88 requires that all water right holders who have previously diverted or intend to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year (riparian and pre-1914 claims), or who are authorized to divert more than 10 acre-feet per year under a permit, license or registration, to measure and report the water they divert. 

Detailed information on the regulatory requirements for measurement and reporting are available on the State Water Resources Control Board Reporting and Measurement Regulation webpage: https://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights. For diversion or storage greater than or equal to 100-acre feet annually, the law requires approval of installation and certification of measurement methods by an engineer, contractor, or other approved professional.

To make it easier for farmers and ranchers to comply with the law, the California Cattlemen’s Association worked with Assemblyman Frank Bigelow on a bill that would allow people to get certified to take the measurements themselves. Assembly Bill 589 became law on Jan. 1, 2018.

Until Jan. 1, 2023, this bill allows anyone who diverts water and has completed an instructional course on measurement devices and methods administered by UC Cooperative Extension, including passage of a proficiency test, to be considered qualified to install and maintain devices or implement methods of measurement. The bill requires UC Cooperative Extension and the water board to jointly develop the curriculum for the course and the proficiency test.

Severe Drought Now Covers 100% of the State

Mark Svoboda, National Drought Mitigation Center, reports that all of California is now depicted as being in severe drought (D2) or worse this week, with the D3/D4 areas remaining unchanged. A heat wave is settling in that will only serve to exacerbate and accelerate drought impact concerns across the state. Increased water demand and risk of fire will ramp up as the heat does, and the state’s agricultural industry continues to suffer. The current drought map is included below.

A cursory review of drought impacts includes:

Groundwater: CDFA reports the state’s groundwater resources are at historically low levels. Fifty percent of the 5,400 wells assessed have dropped since 2008 to points lower than they in the previous century. San Joaquin Valley levels fell more than 100 feet below previous historic lows, while Sacramento Valley, Sonoma Valley and Los Angeles basin levels fell up to 50 feet. Note that the analysis was done in the spring when groundwater levels are usually at their highest.

Curtailments: CDFA reports curtailments in various watersheds, depending upon runoff conditions, water demand and the type of water rights. Water rights holders, including water agencies, farmers and other property owners, have been unable to receive their due water supplies. Junior water rights holders lose out first. Efforts are underway to save water for essential health and safety purposes, wildlife and habitat.

Food Assistance: The California Department of Social Services announced food assistance provisions to at least 24 counties with high unemployment rates and a high proportion of agricultural workers. Foodbanks struggle to supply provisions as the state grows less produce and sources provide lower produce donations.

Livestock Reductions: Many cattle and other livestock producers in California transported thousands of animals by truck to other states as they cannot wait out the stunted grass and depleted water sources. Reuters reported that up to 100,000 California cattle have left the state in just the past four months and producers are selling their cattle early.

Fruit and vegetable prices:  rose 2 and 3 percent in 2013, respectively, per USDA, as low water supplies affected production. A similar price increase in 2014 is likely as more than three million acres out of the nine million acres of irrigated land in California receive no surface water, aside from rain.

Reduced production:  USDA forecasts a 20 percent reduction in rice production and a 35 percent drop in cotton production in California this year as farmers leave fields fallow in response to very meager water allocations.

Photo credit: Robert Galbraith/ReutersUS Drought Monitor CA

 

Drought Monitor Key