12 February 2014

Illegal water use data?

Water supplies are tight, so people may be stretching (or breaking) laws and regulations on how much water they can use. That's what prompted this email to me:
I am trying to find a report (from any state) that outlines water use that's not permitted. Of course we have permitted information and a general idea of exempt uses from well logs or claims, but is there someone who has studied water use outside these parameters, e.g., illegal surface water use, groundwater use past the allowable exemptions, or other consumptive uses?
I sent this to the ERE list and got these replies:

AB wrote:
If the studies aren't out there, perhaps there are methodologies (some better than others) that can be used in your research. Some of these methodologies have been used in the air medium. For example, there are methodological approaches which consider point and area source air emissions and air quality concentrations accounting for meteorological and terrain factors as well as injections and withdrawals by geogenic, biogenic, pyrogenic, permitted anthropogenic sources. On the anthropogenic side differences in, for example, emissions from all of these "sources" would be those from emission sources that are too small to permitted, emissions due to shutdowns, start ups, and malfunctions, and illegal emissions.
RM wrote:
I thought Reclamation did a place of use study for the CVP within the last 10 years that might have generated information.
and Sarah Wheeler wrote:
We have irrigator survey data going back decades in the MDB, and one can see that farmers sometimes made changes, or not, after selling surface rights [PDF]. However, we have never done an individual study on this. I am currently trying to do an analysis of the degree of substitutatability between farmers who sold their surface water entitlements and turned to using groundwater instead in the MDB (which isn't really illegal at this stage but will increasingly become more monitored). But this study will be a while off
Email Sarah if you want her paper (in press) on the effects of on farm behavior from selling surface water rights.

Does anyone else have data on water use? I want this stuff to show up on the water data hub, but that project's on the back burner for lack of interest in/funding by agencies that should be supporting disclosure. (I'm helping the New California Water Atlas add this functionality.)


  1. The question posed is nonsensical. There is NO unpermitted use of SYSTEM water in California. Of RIVER water, that may be a different issue.

    Farmers often tap their own water rights but that is not illegal either.

    Water basins in Southern California are all adjudicated as to how much is "safe yield." Sometimes there is overdraft which could be called "illegal." But there is a judicial process to correct any such overdrafting of groundwater supplies.

    Then there is the layer of the Regional Water Quality Control Boards and over them is the State Water Resource Control Board.

    You would have to better define what "unpermitted" water use. Golf courses in Palm Springs that tap underground supplies are permitted.

    When farmland is converted into a residential home subdivision the developer has to assign underlying water rights to the local water agency. So once again, there is no impermissible use of water.

    I believe there was a study of landowners along Sacramento River (?) that had old, prescriptive water rights??

  2. Here is link to rules for water withdrawal permits for each state in the U.S.


  3. Go the following link for Cal Dept. of Water Resources where it answers the question:


    Link http://www.waterboards.ca.gov/waterrights/board_info/faqs.shtml#toc178761108

  4. California Senate Bill 565 (2010) forbids illegal water diversions.

    Read here: http://www.c-win.org/news/pavley-bill-will-increase-fines-illegal-water-diversions.html

  5. A relatively newer piece of case law (Young v. State Water Resources Control Board - Sept. 4, 2013) ruled the State Water Resources Control Board has the authority under Water Code Section 1831 to issue a cease and desist order against unlawful diversion of water.

  6. @Wayne -- so what about illegal use of ground or river water? Got data on that? as SWRCB ever issued a cease and desist?


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