Hundreds of California irrigators work with The Freshwater Trust to tackle new requirements of water measurement law
SACRAMENTO, CA – More than 200 farmers and water users in the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta are working with The Freshwater Trust (TFT) to help them fulfill the reporting obligations of a new statewide bill to track water use.
Passed in 2015, Senate Bill 88 made it mandatory for those diverting more than 10-acre feet of water per year to install calibrated meters by January 1, 2018. An acre-foot, or one acre covered by one foot of water, is the amount of water used by one or two five-member families in a year.
Working with the Delta Watermaster, TFT developed an alternative approach irrigators in the region can use to meet the requirements of the law.
Instead of installing meters that are often unreliable, irrigators will be able to meet the requirement of the new law by working with TFT to combine real crop and water management data with state of the art models and remote sensing technology to create a more accurate picture of actual water use.
While the bill applies to approximately 12,000 water rights holders in California, TFT’s compliance plan will take place over five years with hundreds of diverters in the Delta region.
SB 88 allows for alternative proposals for compliance where significant technologic, hydrologic or economic barriers to the implementation of meters exist.
“Metering in the Delta is tricky,” said Erik Ringelberg, California state director of The Freshwater Trust. “Twice daily tidal flows, remote locations without power, the use of simple open-pipe siphons instead of pumps, and the theft of equipment in these isolated locations present complications and make current metering inaccurate.”
Despite the complications, Ringelberg explains the entire state has a stake in getting an accurate pulse of the situation in that region.
“This is the center point for the Sacramento and San Joaquin Rivers,” said Ringelberg. “It’s the area of greatest freshwater concern in California.”
TFT opened its first office in the Golden State last year. The organization has three decades of experience working with landowners in Oregon and Idaho. It’s protected billions of gallons of water by leasing water rights and recruited hundreds for streamside restoration projects.
“We have a long history of bridging the gap between producers and conservationists,” said Ringelberg. “If we’re going to secure a future where water doesn’t just support a healthy ecosystem but a thriving economy, then pragmatism and collaboration has to come into play.”
Senate Bill 88 is one of several pieces of legislation passed in the past several years to improve the management of freshwater and guide conservation efforts in California.
“Action requires understanding,” said Ringelberg. “We’re offering a solution that provides a clear picture of water use and sets the stage for better management of a natural resource that plays an intimate role in the health of our ecosystems and economy here in California.”
About The Freshwater Trust
The Freshwater Trust is a group of bold problem solvers designing and implementing data-driven solutions that protect and restore America’s freshwater. www.thefreshwatertrust.org
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