Push to 'precisely understand and quantify how water is being used'
By TIM HEARDEN
REDDING, Calif. -- Farmers and ranchers who take water directly from rivers and streams in California are grappling with a new state requirement this year.
Beginning Jan. 1, most users exercising a water right had to start submitting to the California Water Resources Control Board precise monthly records of water diverted from surface streams.
Before the law took effect, the water board asked landowners for estimates, said Allan Fulton, a University of California Cooperative Extension farm advisor based in Red Bluff.
"There is a statewide effort at trying to more precisely understand and quantify how water is being used," he said.
Fulton and others will host a workshop March 31 on a ranch in Shingletown, Calif., to discuss the new requirement. The workshop will cover technologies for measuring water use, how to determine the appropriate site and installing the equipment.
The requirement is mainly geared toward irrigated pasture, as many orchards and other farms rely on groundwater or obtain their water from irrigation districts, Fulton said. Ranchers have offered little resistance to the new rules, although some have found them confusing, advisors said.
"I've had enough questions that I thought we ought to organize something," said Larry Forero, a UCCE farm advisor here.
The requirement was part of a comprehensive package of water bills passed by the Legislature in 2009, California Farm Bureau Federation director of water resources Danny Merkley explained in a report.
Since 1966, state law has required those who divert surface water or pump groundwater from known subterranean streams to file reports. The new law assesses fines on diverters who fail to submit reports and boosted the fine for making willful misstatements of how much water is used from $1,000 to $25,000, Merkley said.
Exemptions are made for certain diversions, including those that are regulated by a watermaster who makes his own reports.
The law requires a landowner to use the best available technology he or she can afford. Generally, metering devices range from 2 inches to 72 inches in diameter and are rated for varying flows, Nichole Baker of the state Water Resources Control Board's Office of Delta Watermaster explained in a written report.
Landowners may consider several factors in choosing a meter, including cost, the environment the meter would work in, the delivery system the landowner is using, and flow range, Baker advised.
California Water Resources Control Board: www.swrcb.ca.gov
Water Measurement Field Day: http://ceshasta.ucdavis.edu/files/138779.pdf