Reading Time: 7 minutes
I’ve been doing some research on the SWRCB (State Water Resources Control Board) website and have greatly increased my understanding of the serious water issues facing California. Truly, it is the new California liquid gold. Perhaps the best starting point would be Article X of the California Constitution which outlines the state’s policy regarding beneficial use and an avoidance of waste.
ARTICLE 10 WATER
SECTION 1. The right of eminent domain is hereby declared to exist
in the State to all frontages on the navigable waters of this State.
ARTICLE 10 WATER
SEC. 2. It is hereby declared that because of the conditions
prevailing in this State the general welfare requires that the water
resources of the State be put to beneficial use to the fullest extent
of which they are capable, and that the waste or unreasonable use or
unreasonable method of use of water be prevented, and that the
conservation of such waters is to be exercised with a view to the
reasonable and beneficial use thereof in the interest of the people
and for the public welfare. The right to water or to the use or flow
of water in or from any natural stream or water course in this State
is and shall be limited to such water as shall be reasonably
required for the beneficial use to be served, and such right does not
and shall not extend to the waste or unreasonable use or
unreasonable method of use or unreasonable method of diversion of
water. Riparian rights in a stream or water course attach to, but to
no more than so much of the flow thereof as may be required or used
consistently with this section, for the purposes for which such lands
are, or may be made adaptable, in view of such reasonable and
beneficial uses; provided, however, that nothing herein contained
shall be construed as depriving any riparian owner of the reasonable
use of water of the stream to which the owner's land is riparian
under reasonable methods of diversion and use, or as depriving any
appropriator of water to which the appropriator is lawfully entitled.
This section shall be self-executing, and the Legislature may also
enact laws in the furtherance of the policy in this section
ARTICLE 10 WATER
SEC. 3. All tidelands within two miles of any incorporated city,
city and county, or town in this State, and fronting on the water of
any harbor, estuary, bay, or inlet used for the purposes of
navigation, shall be withheld from grant or sale to private persons,
partnerships, or corporations; provided, however, that any such
tidelands, reserved to the State solely for street purposes, which
the Legislature finds and declares are not used for navigation
purposes and are not necessary for such purposes may be sold to any
town, city, county, city and county, municipal corporations, private
persons, partnerships or corporations subject to such conditions as
the Legislature determines are necessary to be imposed in connection
with any such sales in order to protect the public interest.
ARTICLE 10 WATER
SEC. 4. No individual, partnership, or corporation, claiming or
possessing the frontage or tidal lands of a harbor, bay, inlet,
estuary, or other navigable water in this State, shall be permitted
to exclude the right of way to such water whenever it is required for
any public purpose, nor to destroy or obstruct the free navigation
of such water; and the Legislature shall enact such laws as will give
the most liberal construction to this provision, so that access to
the navigable waters of this State shall be always attainable for the
ARTICLE 10 WATER
SEC. 5. The use of all water now appropriated, or that may
hereafter be appropriated, for sale, rental, or distribution, is
hereby declared to be a public use, and subject to the regulation and
control of the State, in the manner to be prescribed by law.
ARTICLE 10 WATER
SEC. 6. The right to collect rates or compensation for the use of
water supplied to any county, city and county, or town, or the
inhabitants thereof, is a franchise, and cannot be exercised except
by authority of and in the manner prescribed by law.
ARTICLE 10 WATER
SEC. 7. Whenever any agency of government, local, state, or
federal, hereafter acquires any interest in real property in this
State, the acceptance of the interest shall constitute an agreement
by the agency to conform to the laws of California as to the
acquisition, control, use, and distribution of water with respect to
the land so acquired.
The SWRCB, or State Water Board, is the regulatory agency for water use. Every user must have a legal right to secure and use water and our CSD obtains this right through Merced Irrigation District (MID) License 11395 which was approved on August 15th, 1983.
Currently we have a contract for 5,160 afa (acre feet per annum, sometimes expressed as afy, acre feet per year.)
“Irrigation of 131,953 acres within a gross area of 154,394 acres within the boundaries of the Merced Irrigation District and a 55 acre golf course within the service area of Sierra Highlands Water Company.
Domestic use at homesites within the service area of Sierra Highlands Water Company and at homesites and recreational facilities adjacent to Lake McSwain and Lake McClure including McClure Point, McClure Boat Club and Barrett cove.
Fish culture at Licensee’s salmon spawning channel and at a privately operated trout farm. Recreational use and fish and wildlife enhancement in and around lakes McClure and McSwain.
The places of use are shown on map entitled “Official Map of the Merced Irrigation District – 1973” and other maps filed with State Water Resources Control Board.”
WHERE’S SIERRA HIGHLANDS?
SIERRA HIGHLANDS was the original subdivision developed by Boise Cascade that subsequently became the Lake Don Pedro Owners’ Association subdivision. I contacted the SWRCB to obtain the 1973 map but was advised it (1973) had been revised in June of 1978 and the June 1978 map was the official place of use retained by the state. Here’s a photo of that map on a display board I created for a past meeting. The red line identifies the boundary between Tuolumne and Mariposa Counties. The subdivision is represented with the shaded blue line.
NOTE: Just left click the map if it appears “stretched”.
- 1978 MID DOMESTIC PLACE OF USE
Here’s another map of the area. This particular one was prepared in 2008 by our own CSD while we still had the GIS equipment to plot large maps.
2008 GIS MAP OF CSD DISTRICT
Notice some MAJOR DIFFERENCES?
HOW DID THE CSD DISTRICT BOUNDARY EXPAND BEYOND THE WATER LICENSE LIMITATIONS?
Likely a number of reasons, but primarily because the area was not developing as anticipated and other properties “close by” required water and didn’t want to sink expensive (and often unreliable) ground water wells in this foothill geology. Surely the fledgling water company could use all the paying customers it could acquire, so little by little, differing CSD administrations turned a blind eye to the requirements of L11395 and connected and supplied Lake McClure pumped water to outside MID POU (Merced Irrigation District Place of Use) properties.
Around 1992 MID determined these outside MIDPOU connections were illegal which forced the Lake Don Pedro Community Services District to drill the Ranchito Well to replace water furnished to illegal connections. Technically this is called, Ground water substitution for surface water transfers”. You see, for our area Lake McClure water was intended ONLY FOR THE SUBDIVISION PROPER and the GOLF COURSE (paperwork states a 55 acre golf course yet the map identifies it as a 155 acre course). This is why the 1978 map shows an area shaped as it is….it follows the subdivision perimeter.
NOTE: THE South Shore Club project on Bonds Flat Road between La Grange and the subdivision is the only State approved change in Place of Use I have seen for this area. WR-1993 . The 2,010 acres was planned as another golf course and residential community for which the SWRCB allocated 772 afa to be supplied by the LDPCSD, however, a number of requirements had to be met which have not occurred and the project appears to be languishing.
Below is a transparency sheet I created and placed over the CSD map indicating in red those areas that are technically ouside the allowed MIDPOU which are required to have their delivered water offset by pumping an equal or greater amount from the Ranchito Well. [Typically water lines were simply extended from within MIDPOU to the adjacent property often indicated by the fact the meter address is within the MIDPOU but water usage is outside.] Unfortunately, CSD has often failed to fulfill that requirement of water substitution – potentially placing us in a breach of contract situation. The Ranchito well (CSD’s only well) is going to require a fairly expensive production capacity inspection and report by the engineers so we know where we stand. Long over due.
NOTE: Left click to view entire map.
RED AREAS: OUTSIDE MERCED IRRIGATION DISTRICT PLACE OF USE UNDER WATER LICENSE 11395
I have advocated for some time now that a committee be formed to open communications with MID in an effort to straighten out decades of failing to follow the restrictions of L11395 regarding where Lake McClure water could be delivered and benefically used. Naturally, every property up here would benefit through the ability to obtain clean, affordable, potable water, however License 11395 should no longer be ignored.
How can CSD possibly approach MID with our hat in hand asking for assistance in this mess if we continue to supply water to outside MID POU properties? Contrary to what others may say, I am not against development at all but it should conform to applicable laws, regulations and codes to avoid exactly what has been created within our Community Services District.
Large water users such as commercial livestock ranching businesses, a waste water treatment plant serving homes around the golf course and the course itself (recently discovered to only be paying for 1/1,000th of the water used), public schools and even a fire station – were never recognized as places of use for Lake McClure water, yet they currently receive such and require ground well substitution production.
Shouldn’t they be included within our communities’ place of use? Or would that be construed as essentially rewarding prior improper activity? (Providing water to areas outside L11395’s Place of Use.)
As far as I can tell there is only one way to bring these current properties within the MID POU and that is through a Change of Place [of Use] petition sponsored by MID to the State Water Board for approval. Wouldn’t that be nice? Make all the existing illegal connections legal and within the POU and do away with the requirement for “ground water substitution for surface water transfers”?
Certainly it will be difficult, but without some good faith attempt it will NEVER happen and our CSD will continue into the very expensive ground water substitution business as property development expands away from the intended subdivision of benefit.
GROUND WATER vs SURFACE WATER
The LDPCSD is a surface water treatment plant. In fact some of the chemicals and minerals found in local ground water is actually damaging to treatment plant equipment. (Water from the Ranchito Well is mixed with lake water for the “substitution program”.) Ground wells in rock fissures are traditionally iffy propositions.
Do the majority of financially contributing customers (and future customers) want the CSD to start drilling a number of expensive and potentially unreliable ground wells to serve properties outside the MIDPOU?
Seems to me focusing on maintaining and improving what we have is the priority while simultaneously opening constructive dialog with MID in hopes of correcting what decades of “fast and loose with the law” has produced. Something else, related to our Community Services District boundary, is the fact some properties purportedly within the district do not even contribute one thin dime in “standby or availability fees” yet are permitted to vote in district elections. Does that make sense to you? If one is not a stakeholder in an organization – why should they be allowed to vote for directors who do represent ratepayers? (As you may already know, a candidate in an LDPCSD election can win or lose by only a few votes.)
I have been told this is because of how the TRA’s (Tax Rate Areas) were formed in Don Pedro decades ago. Did you know that the Lake Don Pedro area has the most TRAs in Mariposa County? Ten of them in fact. We’ll return to this subject when more information has been obtained.
Until then and always,
My best to you and yours, Lew