Ag Water Measurement

At the June 15th meeting, the Commission dispensed with the first six agenda items in just about as many minutes, then proceeded to a prolonged parsing of language for Agricultural Water Measurement Regulations.  They were still at it when they took a break at 3:30 and RTD staff fled for daylight.  Here’s what we can tell you about the general thrust of the discussions.

Recall that the Agricultural Water Measurement Regulations are being developed by the CWC pursuant to SBX7-7, the Water Conservation Bill of 2009.  The Commission appointed a Rules and Regulations Committee to address unresolved issues and make recommendations to the full commission.

Agricultural interests didn’t want implementation to be evaluated against a standard of ANY new water measurement technologies, but only of those that are commercially available.  The Commission agreed.

Agricultural interests asked for a slightly lower standard of measurement accuracy than the original regulations asked for.  Commissioner Delfino worried that the difference would be important to the environmental community, but Commissioner Curtin said that beginning to measure water is hard enough, and that the Commission should be looking for compliance, not perfection.  The Commission agreed.

Agricultural water suppliers wanted to be able to measure water use from laterals (such as a community ditch) rather than from farmgates because they do not always have legal access to farmgates.  Suppliers would “self-certify” that they do not have access.  Commissioner Cogdill was becoming impatient with all the measuring.  He suggested that they would have the information they want when they measure wholesale diversion.

But the Pacific Institute’s Juliet Christian-Smith said that the intent of the regulations was to have customers volumetrically billed to give them a price signal regarding their water use.  Commissioner Curtin countered that they need information not just about usage by individual customers but about the efficiency of the whole system, including issues like seepage.  And Commissioner Delfino noted a fundamental disagreement from the outset about what the legislation was trying to achieve: price signals for individual users, or information about the system as a whole.

The proposed language was adopted unanimously, but Commissioner Delfino (who, it is worth remembering, is California program director for Defenders of Wildlife) seemed increasingly out of step with the other commissioners and increasingly in step with Christian-Smith and with NRDC’s Doug Obegi, who was also making frequent comments.

The Commission pressed on to the matter of measuring field and flow conditions for rice, with the discussion becoming more and more contentious.  CWC counsel said cost-effectiveness measures might apply to the regulations; Obegi respectfully disagreed.  Cogdill said you don’t want to put farmers out of business, and Curtin said that if measures cost too much, you won’t have compliance.  But Christian-Smith argued that the regulations distinguished between small farmers and those with over 250,000 irrigated acres; smaller farmers would have to comply only if funds are provided.

The California Farm Water Coalition’s Mike Wade, who took time away from his on-line newspaper blogging pro-peripheral canal duties, said that a letter on the regulations submitted to the Commission by NRCD, the Pacific Institute, and Sierra Club California, just made matters worse.

And so on.

These are emergency draft regulations, to be evaluated later, and you will be able to access them at the Water Commission website.  They are at Attachment 1: Exhibits.

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