In 1850, when California enrolled as our thirty first state,there were 92,600 Californians. One hundred years later, we grew to be 10,600,000. Sixty six years later, in 2016, our state’s population is now over 39 million.
Yet, in all of that time, California did not measure either surface water taken from our streams and rivers or the amount of groundwater taken from wells. Climate change and the recent ongoing drought, though, caused us to rethink and revise our water regulations. In 2014, California passed the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act. In 2015, the California Water Code was amended to require the professional installation of measuring devices for significant water diversions.
In January 2016, the State Water Resources Control Board (SWRCB) issued Emergency Regulations for Measuring and Reporting Water Diversions. The Regulations are a tiered system with the lowest reportable tier set for diversions of ten acre feet or more per year. SWRCB estimates that there are 12,000 diverters who meet or exceed this amount of water diversion.
SWRCB Regulations mandate that applicable diverters have a water measuring device, installed by a professional, to record the amounts of diversion. Diversion records are to be kept for 10 years with annual reporting to the SWRCB.
Reporting differs for each tier of diverters. At the lowest reportable level (10 acre feet or more per year) diversion records must include information such as the date, time and amount of diversion and whether the diversion is direct or to storage and, if so, the amount taken into storage, or the amount released from storage. The maximum monthly diversion rate for each month is to be noted. Also to be provided is information on the measuring device itself such as make and model number. Diversions are to be measured weekly. Records of diversions are to be kept for 10 years. Reporting to SWRCB is to be made annually and due by July first of each year.
Annual diversion quantities above 100 acre feet per year require a different measuring schedule.
A lingering aspect of the protracted California drought is the effect of low streamflow and higher water temperatures on our rapidly declining fish population. Low water levels imperil fish health as does higher water temperature. Low water levels are often a contributing factor leading to increased water temperatures.
The State Water Resources Control Board, keenly aware of both issues as they affect aquatic ecology, have issued protective regulations to benefit fish safety and survival. Under the Policy for Maintaining Instream Flows in Northern California Coastal Streams (2014) water may be diverted only when streamflows are higher than the minimum flows needed for fish spawning, rearing and passage.
The state has set guidelines for water permit holders that prohibit diversions unless the streamflow is at least 8.8 times the minimum bypass streamflow in cubic feet per second. Although these guidelines apply only for new permit holders we suspect that the State will implement these or similar regulations for existing permit holders.
In mid-2016, the State Water Resources Control Board is considering regulations for recently adopted SB 837. These new regulations will apply to all marijuana growers in the state, an estimated at 50,000 growers, who must now apply for a permit to divert water for irrigation. We anticipate that the full regulations, when issued, will state that water withdrawals must meet minimum bypass flow objectives, diversions must be reported to the state and diversion records retained for 10 years.
Our new Mark 1 meets these requirements at a reasonable cost.