Agriculture: Are Stockponds Considered a Water Diversion?


Water rights are certainly something that most agricultural operators spend a significant amount of time grappling with due to SB 88 passed in 2015. SB88, among other things, requires that all water diversions in the state over 10 acre-feet install measuring devices to accurately measure the rate and amount of diversion, and all diversions in the state are now subjected to reporting requirements. Since the emergency regulations implementing SB 88 went into effect in 2016, many agricultural operations have struggled to come into compliance with the regulations due to the difficulty of fitting some of these diversions with measuring devices, the cost of compliance, and other factors. In 2017, the California Cattlemen’s Association sponsored AB 589, which was signed by Gov. Brown and provided some relief from SB 88, allowing diverters to self-certify their measurement devices in certain circumstances.

Significant issues, however, often remain with “smaller” diversions (those < 10 acre-feet) due to;

(1) lack of compliance with the registration requirements. Agricultural operators often aren’t aware that their stockponds constitute ‘diversions’ under Water Code 5100(c) under he Board’s interpretation of that statute; and,

(2) the significant and ever-increasing costs of maintaining those water rights.

AB 448, was introduced in the California Assembly on February 11, 2018 to address some of these concerns.