Delta Watermaster update to the State Water Board: Dry conditions and Delta water quality standards, Term 91, water use statements and more

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At the August 6th meeting of the State Water Resources Control Board, Delta Watermaster Craig Wilson updated Board members on the activities of his office.

  • Complaint against DFG’s water use in the Delta resolved:  A complaint had been made alleging that the Department of Fish and Wildlife did not have valid water rights to support some of their diversions of water to wetlands and duck clubs in the Yolo Bypass.  The Watermaster conducted an investigation which included searching through property transaction documents, some even dating back to the 1800s.  He concluded that the diversion of water by DFG was proper and supported by valid water rights as the records search determined that there were riparian rights on the parcel in question.  The records search also determined that for several other properties in the area that were no longer contiguous to a water course, there was an intent to retain riparian rights.  The use of the water was also supported by the North Delta Water Agency.  The complaint was resolved and recently dismissed.
  • Dry conditions and water quality standards in the Delta:  Decision D-1641 contains several water quality objectives that the Central Valley Project and the State Water Project (water projects) are required to meet. In May, the Watermaster sent a letter to the water agencies and the fish agencies in response to their request from to relax water quality standards in the western Delta so that more water can be retained behind Shasta Dam to save cold water for fishery protection in the fall.  The Watermaster’s letter stated that they would not object or take action if that took place.  (More on this by clicking here.)  The Watermaster asked the Bureau of a water accounting of how much water was saved.  He has been monitoring the salinity levels in the western Delta and so far they are still within standards for dry years, so hopefully they will get by without any major impacts to agriculture.
  • Term 91 update:  Term 91 is a provision inserted into water right permits and licenses which are junior in priority to the water projects that states that when the projects are releasing water from behind dams to satisfy downstream water quality objectives, those with Term 91 conditions must cease diverting water under their license or permit and either not divert at all or divert water under a different water right or contractual agreement.  Term 91 was invoked fairly early this year; in May, about 100 permit and license holders were sent letters notifying them that Term 91 was being invoked and that they must cease diverting water under that right from May 7 through August 31st unless they had another water right or some other arrangement.  They were required to file certifications that they were in compliance.  The Watermaster’s office received certifications from all who were sent the notice and a spot inspection last month found that in all cases that Term 91 was being complied with.  The Watermaster said that he’s watching the numbers and conditions but it’s possible that the curtailment season might extend into September this year.
  • Statements of water use and diversion:  As a result of the Delta Reform Act, in 2010 most of those diverting water in the Delta were required for the first time to file statements regarding their water use and diversion.  The program requires statements be filed tri-annually, so now those Delta water users are reporting again this year, and for the first time there are new reporting requirements that require much more information on how much water is being diverted and used.   So far, the compliance rate in the legal Delta stands at 90%.  Delinquency letters have been sent out, and they are hoping to get closer to 100% compliance.   “We’re going to focus a lot on what numbers and data that we’re getting regarding water use and diversion in the Delta so that we get more certainty, not only on the number of people diverting water but how much they are diverting and what their net consumptive use is,” said Mr. Wilson.
  • Future Watermaster reports:  Mr. Wilson hopes to compile the information culled from the Statements of Water Diversions and Use program and issue a report with some preliminary numbers on how much water is being diverted and used in the Delta by the end of the year.  He is also working on a report that will be completed by late September or October on the subject of area of origin laws in California.  “Since 2006, there have been four appellate cases discussing at length the area of origin laws, the last of which was decided just last month,” said Mr. Wilson.  “While all the cases eventually found against the area of origin claims, there was a pretty thorough discussion in many of the cases about the law so we’re going to try and bring those together in plain English and explain how they might some of the Delta issues.”


  • Click here to visit the Delta Watermaster’s website.
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