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.

Almond Farmer Fights Back Against the State Water Grab

“Hundreds of Years of Property Rights Taken Away”

By Hannah Young, Associate Editor

More than 1,000 farmers, stakeholders, and supporters attended a rally in Sacramento protesting the California Water Resources Control Board’s proposed water grab.

This water grab will affect the Stanislaus, Tuolumne, and Merced rivers, redirecting 40% of the water to increase flows for salmon population.

Tim Sanders, an almond grower in Stanislaus County, described the catastrophic effects this water grab will have on Valley farmers.

“The scarier part about this, they’re trying to change hundreds of years of water rights,” Sanders said. “If they can take our water rights with this grab, they can take anybody’s water rights, so everybody in California should be concerned about this.”

Sanders explained how this is proposed water grab is a real government overstep.

“Our area is one of the few areas in the state that aren’t in extreme overdraft of groundwater, and it’s because we can do irrigation,” Sanders said. “We can recharge our aquifers all the time.”

If the state takes surface water from these growers, they will have to rely on their pumps extracting water from the ground, which could put them in a situation where they’ll be impacted by the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act.

“We’ve got a good system working. They just need to leave us alone or come to us at the table and be willing to compromise, talk to us,” Sanders said.

Assemblyman Adam Gray: Need Real Changes for Water Future

Everything is On Table For California’s Water Future

By Patrick Cavanaugh, Farm News Director

Now is the time to unite and plan California’s water infrastructure. That’s what Adam Gray told California Ag Today recently. Gray is the California State Assembly representing the 21st Assembly District, Merced and Stanislaus Counties. He said there is an urgent need for unification in regards to California’s water and the need for real changes to be made for future generations.

“It’s that famous quote, ‘Water’s for fighting. Whiskey’s for drinking.’ All we do is spend our time fighting, and we cannot continue to divide the pie. We have to grow the pie. That means targeted, intelligent investments in storage, projects like Temperance Flat, projects like Sites Reservoir,” Gray explained.

It is hoped that these reservoirs get California through years of drought, and will help us utilize water and years of heavy rain.

“It also means recycling, groundwater recharge, desal, and it means communities working together to make sure we have the conveyance systems in place to move that water around and meet the need of every Californian, and stop forcing people into false choices,” Gray said.

“The environment versus drinking water for schools. These are false choices. We can do better, we can do more,” he continued.

“We, as Californians, need to look past the short term into the long term. It’s important to look out for future generations and keep their needs in mind, as well,” Gray said.

“There’s no silver bullet solution, as is true with anything. There are always costs of doing business, there are always compromises to be made, if we can agree on the target.” he noted. “And the target being meeting the needs of not just of this generation, not just today, but of our children’s generation and our grand-children’s.”

“We need to make the same smart, significant investments that our grandparents made to provide us with this great economy that we have here in this great agricultural valley,” Gray said.

Water Diversion Lessons from Australia

Australian Water Woes: Water Diversion Will Not Save Fish

 

By Laurie Greene, Editor

 

Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition, spoke to the CDFA Board of Directors about the State Water Resources Control Board’s proposed strategy of diverting up to 40 percent of the Tuolumne River flows to increase flows in the Delta for salmon and smelt. The diversion would severely impact farm and city water needs in both the Turlock Irrigation District (TID) and Oakdale Irrigation District (OID).

 

“Despite increased [water] flows over the years, the fish populations continue to decline in the Delta,” Wade said. “We have exacerbated this problem. We have released water with the intent going back to 2008 and 2009 [scenarios] and even before, if you want to turn the clock back to 1992, and yet we’re still seeing population crashes.”

 

“The science is showing that fish are not recovering. Yet, the California Department of Water Resources is doubling down on the same kind of activity—the same strategy—that hasn’t worked in the past and that we do not expect to work moving forward,” he said.

 

Mike Wade
Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Water Coalition.

 

“That is why schools, health departments, farmers, Latinos, economic development departments have opposed the regulation. A host of folks have come out and commented, written letters, and expressed their opinion on the plan because of the severe economic issues they are going to deal with at the 40% impaired flow level.”

 

Wade noted that in recent years, a lot of attention has focused on Australia and how great they are at water management. People commend their effectiveness in changing their water rights system and supposedly improving their ecosystem—or having a plan to work on their ecosystem issues. “In 2009, the vast agricultural production in the Murray-Darling Basin Authority established a flow amount, or a quantity, for environmental water that was around 2.2 million acre-feet. That is out of around 26.4 million acre-feet of average annual flow in the Murray-Darling Basin,” Wade said.

 

“To set the stage, the Murray-Darling Basin is in eastern Australia. It extends in the north around 800 miles from Gold Coast and the border of Queensland all the way south to Melbourne,” Wade said. “It is actually a geographic area about the size of California and remarkably has a very similar quantity of water to serve its farmers. The Murray-Darling Basin Authority set a 2.2 million acre-foot environmental water buyback for the environment, like we are talking about here.”

 

Wade conveyed to the CDFA Board what his friends in Australia were telling him. “I was there for two weeks in August following up on a trip I took in 2012 to learn about their water supply issues and how they deal with it. My friends are telling me, ‘Don’t do what we do. It has been a disaster,’” Wade said.

 

“The environmental sector hasn’t even achieved their full environmental buyback goal, and they’re already seeing 35% unemployment in some towns. It is directly related to the water buybacks, the declining amount of irrigation water, and the declining agriculture economy because of the change in focus on how they deliver and use water in Australia,” he said.

 

“Three weeks ago—this is how recent these things are coming about and how they’re changing—a good friend of mine, Michael Murray, Cotton Australia general manager, said the ‘Just Add Water’ approach already in place doesn’t work in the Northern Basin. It has to be abandoned. And recently, Ricegrowers’ Association of Australia, Inc. of Australia President Jeremy Morton said, ‘The over-recovery of water has resulted in unnecessary economic harm to communities. It’s a case of maximum pain with minimum gain.'”

 

“A dozen organizations are suggesting this isn’t just a, ‘Don’t do it’ and ‘Abandon the environmental water buybacks.’ What they’re suggesting is the exact same thing that TID and OID are going to experience. Australia’s problems in the Murray-Darling Basin are, remarkably, invasive species, the loss of habitat, and some of the water quality issues that we deal with. It’s the same story, only they are a few years ahead of us,” Wade said.

 

“What has happened in Australia is going to happen to us in the Valley, with big unemployment issues and the closed businesses,” Wade said. “I walked down the main street in the town of Helston and half of the businesses—I’m not exaggeratinghalf of the businesses were boarded up and closed. Only small businesses were still open, such as a convenience store, a bar and a tailor. All the rest were gone.”

 

Wade asked CDFA Secretary Karen Ross to extend the comment period for the Water Board’s proposal. “We all need to have an opportunity to bring some of these issues to light and to support what’s going on in the agriculture community. We must support the need for comprehensive economic studies, either bringing out the ones that have been done or doing some more. We have more economic data will show there is an economic hit that’s deeper, much deeper, that what is proposed or suggested in the plan.”

Interior Assesses California Water

U.S. Department of Interior’s Tom Iseman Assesses California Water

Tom Iseman, deputy assistant secretary for water and science at the U.S. Department of the Interior, in an exclusive interview with California Ag Today’s farm news director, Patrick Cavanaugh, assessed how California is faring given the drought.

Cavanaugh:  I see you as someone who focuses on not just solutions but also the issues and tragedies caused by the extended drought in California. From your perspective, how is California doing and how could things be better?

Iseman:         First of all, I think California is obviously on the leading edge for a lot of reasons, but the state is in the midst of an extended drought. So it is really forcing us to be smarter about how we address these water scarcity challenges. I have been very impressed with the way we have been able to really work together—the Bureau of Reclamation working with the state, the water users and the conservation groups—to think about how we can stretch our limited water supplies to meet these different purposes.

Tom Iseman, deputy assistant secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior
Tom Iseman, deputy assistant secretary, U.S. Department of the Interior (Source: https://www.linkedin.com/in/tom-iseman-3354aa7)

Cavanaugh:  Obviously the country is not able to build another Hoover Dam, but does the Interior understand that we need more storage in California for the rainy days?

Iseman:         Absolutely. There are different ways to do it, so we are looking at a number of projects. One is raising Shasta Dam; one is a new reservoir possibly on the upper San Joaquin River (Temperance Flats); and Sites Reservoir.

Cavanaugh:  But those projects are a long way off, and they may never be built. What can California do now to increase its water portfolio?

Iseman:         There are smarter ways we can build smaller-scale storage and new ways to operate our facilities to stretch water supplies to our advantage.

Cavanaugh:  Could you talk about how we can use water differently? Desal is more expensive water, but water needs to be more expensive. When water gets more expensive, people conserve more, right? Talk about your vision of desal in America, particularly in California.

Iseman:         Generally, clean water technology is a big part of what we need to be doing. It is not just building new storage; it’s being smarter with what we have. So, technology is a great way to do that. We have desalination, water recycling and water reuse. Having these options creates an opportunity for more partnerships. So now you can have cities recycling their water and sending their water supply to agricultural water users—a win-win situation. The city gets some revenue and deals with its wastewater, and agricultural water users get a new supply. That is the way we should be thinking—about the possible partnerships to take advantage of these options.

Cavanaugh:  People building desal plants in cities like Santa Barbara, mothballed the plants when the rains came. We need to make desal part of the culture of these cities located on the ocean. I mean, does the Department of the Interior see that as a rational thing to do?

Iseman:         It’s interesting. Obviously it has been done in other places, and they have invested quite a bit of money here in California. It comes down to economics; we don’t make the decision about whether a city builds or doesn’t build a desal plant, but it is part of the water supply list, potentially.

The challenges with desal is just the cost right now and how much energy and waste it can produce. And they are comparing that to the other options out there. Are there other technologies out there that we can use? Are there water markets or water rights I can acquire? Is there potential for new storage? I think the cost will help sort that out.

The part that cost doesn’t address in some ways—and it can be built in—is the uncertainty. One thing, I think, about a desal plant that people like is that you know there is going to be a water supply if you are on the ocean. And if you have the money and can generate the energy, you can get the water. As you see more uncertainty in our climate and in our existing water supplies, that would be one argument in favor of desal.

Cavanaugh:  It is stable.

Iseman:         Yes, and we need reliability.

Cavanaugh:  Well, you talked about the cost and the economics, but we all need to pay more for water, and I’d be the first one. It would make everyone conserve more, right?

Iseman:         Absolutely.

Cavanaugh:  Maybe, raise the cost of water $10 a bill?

Iseman:         Well, I’m not going to say we are going to raise people’s water rates, but if you talk to the industry and look at the future of the industry, a lot of people say, ‘People need to pay more for water.’ That is how you get the investments.

The federal budget is constrained; they are not going to be there when we are going out and building Hoover Dam in ten years. We just don’t have that kind of resources anymore. So the question is, how do you get more revenue stream in to help contribute to the cost of those investments? And that goes back to rates. And at some point, we will have to decide how much we pay for water and how much we value our water.

Cavanaugh:  Thanks for being aware of all this. Are you encouraged we will find solutions?

Iseman:         We talk about California everyday; we are all very aware of the things that are happening. But I really gained an appreciation of the innovation, the energy and the cooperation of people here—the commitment they have in dealing with these issues. I was glad to be a part of it.

_____________________________

Link:

U.S. Department of the Interior

Valadao Addresses Western Water Reliability

Valadao, California Republicans, Introduce Legislation to Improve Western Water Reliability

Today, Congressmen David G. Valadao (CA-21) introduced a bill to modernize water policies in California and throughout the entire Western United States with the support of the entire California Republican delegation, the Chairman of the House Natural Resources Committee, and Chairman of the Western Caucus.

 

H.R. 2898, the Western Water and American Food Security Act of 2015 aims to make more water available to families, farmers, and communities in California and bordering Western states. The dedication of vast quantities of water to protect certain species of fish listed under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) is a significant obstacle hindering water delivery in Central and Southern California. H.R. 2898, will require federal agencies to use current and reliable data when making regulatory decisions, which in turn will provide more water for communities in need.

Additionally, Rep. Valadao’s legislation will provide federal regulators with direction and flexibility to capture water during periods of greater precipitation, which can be used to increase California’s water supplies dramatically. Furthermore, the bill will cut red tape holding back major water storage projects that have been authorized for over a decade, which will aid the entire Western United States during dry years.

Congressman David Valadao (CA-21), the author of the legislation, said, “California’s drought has devastated communities throughout the Central Valley and now the consequences are extending throughout the country. Inaction will result in the collapse of our domestic food supply.” He continued, “Congress cannot make it rain but we can enact policies that expand our water infrastructure, allow for more water conveyance, and utilize legitimate science to ensure a reliable water supply for farmers and families.”

Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy (CA-23) stated, “The tragedy of the current drought is no longer isolated to California’s Central Valley, and its response must include tangible solutions that provide us the opportunity to pursue the California Dream. Today is an important step to helping restore the water our communities desperately need by more fully utilizing the most sophisticated water system in the world to quench the robust economic opportunity California families, farmers, workers, and businesses all need.”

“My western colleagues have worked hard to collaborate on a common sense bill that helps people,” stated Rep. Rob Bishop (R-UT), Chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources. “Communities are suffering and we are putting forward a creative solution to address those needs. I look forward to working on a bipartisan basis in the House and Senate to move this legislation forward.”

“Having personally visited California’s Central Valley on this matter, I can attest to the dire situation facing California with the drought,” said Western Caucus Chairman and Natural Resources Vice-Chairman Cynthia Lummis (WY-at large). “This situation demands congressional action to tackle the man-made barriers that are needlessly choking off water supplies crucial not just for California jobs but for the food on American tables. I am pleased to work with my Californian colleagues to ensure we also seize this opportunity to address water issues west wide through water project permit streamlining, enhanced water storage, and protecting state-endowed water rights that are increasingly under attack at the federal level.”

“The water bill we are introducing today will help California families and businesses that are suffering in our ongoing drought,” said Rep. Ken Calvert (CA-42). “No legislation will magically end our drought, but by passing this bill, we can take a step in the right direction and work in a collaborative way to enact meaningful solutions. Our bill takes important steps that are the direct result of bipartisan and bicameral conversations, and I look forward to the continued engagement with my House colleagues as well as action from the Senate in the near future. Despite what opponents might say, our legislation does not gut – let alone modify – the Endangered Species Act. Rather, our bill ensures our critical water infrastructure is operated using sound science in order to prevent wasting precious water in ways that do not benefit listed species but come at a high cost to Californians.”

“California’s devastating drought is hurting our ag economy and food supply nationwide,” said Congressman Jeff Denham (CA-10). “This bill provides both the short- and long-term solutions that the Central Valley needs, beginning with more storage. It includes two pieces of legislation I’ve introduced to study and eliminate the threat of predator fish and to increase storage in New Melones Reservoir. We can’t keep waiting on the Senate or the President to get engaged and provide Californians with the solutions they need to survive.”

“This bill was designed to address the underlying causes of the drought in a pragmatic and bipartisan manner,” said Congressman Steve Knight (CA-25). “There is no simple answer to this problem. But California needs rational solutions, not more water rations.”

“This balanced legislation improves water access for Californians around the state by using improved science to time water deliveries, preserving water rights and moving forward on new surface storage facilities,”  said Congressman Doug LaMalfa (CA-01). It protects the most fundamental water rights of all, area of origin rights, ensuring that Northern Californians who live where our state’s water originates have access to it. Californians have spoken clearly in support of investment in new surface storage projects, and this measure fulfills the promise to voters by advancing projects that would generate over one million acre-feet of water, enough for eight million Californians. We’ll continue to refine this proposal as it moves through the process, but I am proud to cosponsor a bill that addresses both short- and long-term needs of all Californians and supports continued economic growth.”

“Droughts are nature’s fault; water shortages are our fault,” said Congressman Tom McClintock (CA-04). “For a generation, we have failed to build the facilities needed to store water from wet years to have it in dry ones and radical environmental laws have squandered the water we did store. Our water shortage is caused by a shortage of sensible water policy. This bill begins fixing that.”

Congressman Devin Nunes (CA-22) explained, “Facing an annual water deficit of 2.5 million acre-feet south of the Delta, the San Joaquin Valley urgently needs whatever relief it can get. And once again, the House of Representatives is taking action to assist our long-suffering communities. As this entirely preventable water crisis continues to ravage Valley farms and devastate our economy, I urge the Senate to finally begin supporting the House’s consistent efforts to roll back the disastrous government regulations that prioritize fish over families.”

Original cosponsors of Congressman Valadao’s legislation include Reps. Ken Calvert (CA-42), Paul Cook (CA-08), Jim Costa (CA-16), Jeff Denham (CA-10), Duncan Hunter (CA-50), Darrell E. Issa (CA-49), Stephen Knight (CA-25), Dough LaMalfa (CA-01), Kevin McCarthy (CA-23), Tom McClintock (CA-04), Devin Nunes (CA-22), Dana Rohrabacher (CA-48), Edward R. Royce (CA-39), Mimi Walters (CA-45), Mark E. Amodei (NV-02), Rodney Davis (IL-13), Mario Diaz-Balart (FL-25), Cresent Hardy (NV-04), David P. Joyce (OH-14), Cynthia M. Lummis (WY-AL), Dan Newhouse (WA-04), Michael K. Simpson (ID-02), Chris Stewart (UT-02), Scott Tipton (CO-03), and Ryan K. Zinke (MT-AL).

‘Curtailments’ and other woes tighten supplies

Source: Kate Campbell; Ag Alert

Facing severe drought, California farmers and ranchers are bracing for an increasing flow of bad news about water supplies.

State officials said last week they’re preparing to curtail diversions to holders of certain water rights; federal authorities said they have no immediate plans to increase the “zero” allocation for most of their farm water customers; and a new report detailed the pressure surface-water shortages have placed on California groundwater basins.

The State Water Resources Control Board said it is preparing to curtail water diversions from watersheds that drain into the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, the Tulare Lake Basin, and the Russian and Eel rivers.

In times of shortage, state water law says if there’s not enough water for all water right holders, the most junior will be curtailed before restrictions are imposed on more senior water right holders. Seniority is determined by the type and age of the water right.

Riparian water rights are generally the most senior rights, followed by older appropriative rights and then newer rights. Any water supply remaining in the watershed after appropriative water rights are shut off must be shared on a “correlative basis among riparian users.”

In most watersheds where curtailment is likely, the water board said notices will go to post-1914 water rights holders beginning in May; thousands of individuals and water agencies hold such rights, although it is not clear how many will receive the curtailment notices.

Holders of pre-1914 rights are also expected to receive curtailment notices, later this year, and it’s anticipated that supply this summer and fall won’t meet all riparian demands, requiring riparian users also to reduce or stop using water.

Given the dire shortages expected in coming months, the water board said after curtailment, it expects to allow limited diversions for public health and safety needs where no other water supply is available.

“We encourage management of water supplies to protect public health and safety, but we also must emphasize the need for adequate food production,” said Danny Merkley, water resources director for the California Farm Bureau Federation. “Having healthful, local food available is a big part of ensuring human health and safety.”

Also last week, the state Department of Water Resources’ final snow survey of the year found more bare ground than snow, with snow water content at only 18 percent of average for the date.

Officials at the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, which operates the Central Valley Project, said last week they don’t know “when or if we’ll be doing another (water) allocation announcement.”

Economic losses in the billions of dollars are anticipated due to the zero water allocation for CVP agricultural contractors. The Friant Water Authority said its contractors are preparing for a “financial and social calamity,” as they prepare for the first-ever call on Friant water to supply San Joaquin River exchange contractors and honor their historic river water rights. The agency said all-out efforts continue to seek an emergency solution to the water cutoff.

The state’s citrus belt—Fresno, Tulare and Kings counties, where the bulk of fresh-market citrus is grown on about 50,000 acres—faces estimated losses of $3 billion. Many farms do not have access to groundwater or other alternative water sources, and some orchards are being pushed out.

“It is incredible that a system created to preserve agricultural production in this state is being leveraged to service environmental needs at greater levels than are necessary, while agriculture is left to go dry,” said Joel Nelsen, president of Exeter-based California Citrus Mutual.

The groundwater report is available at www.water.ca.gov/waterconditions.

Curtailment information by watershed is available at www.swrcb.ca.gov/waterrights/water_issues/programs/drought/analysis/.