Irrigation Water Customers



BACKGROUND: In 2009 and 2015, NYWD completed studies with the goals of identifying how best to 1) secure NYWD water right, 2) reduce water lost to seepage and evaporation, 3) provide a more reliable source of water for NYWD irrigation customers, 4) reduce contamination and theft, and 5) reduce the chance of massive blowouts that routinely occur during extended periods of heavy rainfall ("North Yuba Water District Forbestown Ditch Improvement Feasibility Study, dated November 5, 2009" and "Preliminary Engineering Evaluations for Raw Water Conveyance Systems in the North Yuba Water District, dated September 25, 2015"). Both studies concluded piping the Forbestown Ditch would achieve the District's goals.

In 2019, NYWD completed an even more extensive $500,000 engineering study of the Forbestown Ditch, The conclusion of that study, and outlined in the Scope of Work, was to install a 36" pipe on the entirety of the Forbestown Ditch (approximately 10 miles).

YWA INVOLVEMENT: NYWD began reaching out to the Yuba Water Agency for financial help to complete the recommendations of the study. Under then General Manager, Curt Aikens, the Yuba Water Agency insisted on doing their own engineering study and review of the Forbestown Ditch before proceeding, spending another approximately $70,000. This second study agreed with all findings of the original study, but added a recommendation to move to a 42" pipe that would allow the entirety of NYWD's water right to be conveyed in a 12 month period. Moving to the larger pipe increases the cost of the project substantially, but NYWD agreed to the change and a Revised Hydraulic Analysis was released.

In early 2020, Willie Whittlesey replaced Curt Aikens as Yuba Water Agency General Manager. Since then a number of meetings have occurred between YWA and NYWD to discuss completion and funding of the Forbestown Ditch project.


In late 2020, NYWD began a separate but vital project to pipe approximately .6 miles of Oroleve Creek that feeds into the Forbestown Ditch. YWA contributed approximately 70% of the funds needed for this project, roughly $480,000 of the $684,000 total project. After a one year review, this initial project was deemed successful in meeting all goals of a piping project and validated NYWD moving forward with the Forbestown Ditch piping project.

Meanwhile, 2021 and 2022 were record drought years. While NYWD has ample access to stored water, the current unpiped Forbestown Ditch does not carry enough water supply to meet contractual obligations and divert to irrigation customers. Until the Forbestown Ditch piping project is substantially complete, NYWD irrigation customers are solely reliant on Mother Nature and rainfall/snow pack through the tributary Dry Creek to deliver water for their irrigation season. See details on this in the 2021 and 2022 letters to irrigation customers (below). 

NYWD continued talks with YWA to assist with funding to complete the Forbestown Ditch piping project, to restore a reliable irrigation season for customers. Despite the previous three studies, and YWA's own review and approval of the viability of the Project, YWA's Willie Whittlesey began to question the project and would not commit to further funding until it was reviewed further. NYWD initially offered to partner with YWA to do yet again another study of the project, and include review of the irrigation ditch system and tributaries if needed. Mr. Whittlesey believed South Feather Water & Power (SFWPA) should be included in the planning of the study.


NYWD is currently suing SFWPA claiming that vital financial records have been withheld from NYWD that would show SFWPA owes more money to NYWD than what has been distributed. SFWPA then sued NYWD over the Oroleve Creek piping project.

NYWD General Manager, Jeff Maupin, advised Mr. Whittlesey that due to the ongoing litigation, NYWD could not meet with SFWPA. Mr. Whittlesey, along with YWA Board Member, Gary Bradford, went ahead and met with SFWPA. Mr. Bradford sent a letter to NYWD that did not address a new study of the system at all, but instead stated that SFWPA and YWA offered to do maintenance to the Forbestown Ditch, and without any facts from any study, implied that doing so would allow NYWD to provide a portion of the remainder of the 2022 irrigation season to customers. NYWD replied to Mr. Bradford reiterating the findings of the numerous studies and asking for help to create a permanent solution to the problem.


For over a decade, the facts of NYWD's water conveyance system have been well known and well documented. NYWD's ditch system is well maintained and no study has concluded that additional maintenance would solve the problem of getting water to NYWD irrigation customers.


MOVING FORWARD: NYWD is proceeding with the Forbestown Ditch Piping Project, recently receiving a CEQA (environmental review) exemption the Governor is issuing to projects that maximize the efficient use of water and preserve water supplies critical to human health and safety and the environment, during this historic ongoing drought. The original Forbestown Ditch Piping Project study put a price tag of roughly $4M to complete the Project, by the 2019 study that figure had risen to $10M, and with the recent supply chain issues and inflation increases, the Project is now quoted at $20M.


NYWD will continue to be open to partners willing to assist in funding the solution and pipe the ditch, but will not be looking to waste additional time on a fourth, fifth, or sixth study as a method of kicking the can down the road to avoid taking real steps to participate in the solution.


Dear North Yuba Water District seasonal agricultural customers,

Due to ongoing drought conditions, we will not have a 2022 irrigation season.

Even though we’ve had a few storms recently, we do not have the capacity or the means to deliver an irrigation season to irrigation customers during this drought year. Here’s why:

  • In order to have an irrigation season we must have water available to divert BOTH from the Forbestown Ditch and from Mother Nature through Dry Creek for a combined total of 12 CFS (cubic feet per second).
    Due to the drought, we do not have this.

  • NYWD’s main conveyance system is The Forbestown Ditch, which can presently hold a maximum of 24 CFS.
    It is an open ditch and loses an average of 35% of its water along the 10 miles, due to seepage.

  • In 2005, the NYWD Board of Directors signed a new contract, that took effect in 2010, dramatically changing how the 24 CFS is allotted in the Forbestown Ditch. Because of this and the ongoing draught, since 2012, irrigation seasons have been extremely inconsistent.

  • Prior to 2010, South Feather Water and Power (SFWPA) was contractually owed 11 CFS at the head of the Forbestown Ditch and they were responsible for the seepage and water lost along the way. This arrangement left about 4 CFS (out of 24 CFS) that NYWD diverted for irrigation purposes. When Mother Nature was good, it combined with water from Dry Creek to provide the needed 12 CFS to produce a full irrigation season most years.

  • After 2010, under the new agreement, NYWD now owes SFWPA 11 CFS at the bottom of the Ditch and NYWD is accountable for all the water loss along the way, leaving virtually no water to divert from the Forbestown Ditch for irrigation purposes. Even with SFWPA’s recent offer to reduce demand by 2.0 – 4.0 cfs at the bottom of the Ditch, there is not sufficient additional Mother Nature water through Dry Creek to initiate an irrigation season.

We must work to pipe the Forbestown Ditch so we can regain the 35% of our water lost to seepage and take advantage of the additional capacity provided by the proposed 42-inch pipe. Engineering is complete on the project, but ongoing lawsuits by South Feather Water & Power Authority and a few seasonal agriculture customers, have stalled the project. The NYWD Board and the NYWD staff remain unanimously supportive of piping the Forbestown Ditch and need your support in the coming years to accomplish this goal.

Until the Ditch is piped, the only potential for an irrigation season in future years will be in extremely wet years, when Mother Nature allows.

NYWD General Manager, Jeff Maupin, is willing to discuss the details further with you, contact him at (530) 675-2567.



Our District is once again facing extreme drought conditions. During the March 26 Board Meeting, your North Yuba Water District Board of Directors confirmed we do not have the capacity or the means to deliver an irrigation season to you for 2021. 

Why has irrigation water been sporadic since 2010?

Since 2010 it has been a real challenge to deliver a solid irrigation season to our customers. Dramatic contract changes between NYWD and South Feather Water & Power, called the "2005 Agreement", took effect in 2010, leaving virtually no water to divert from the Forbestown Ditch for irrigation purposes.


Mother Nature’s water, conveyed through Dry Creek (shown below on 3/29/21), is now your primary source for irrigation water. This year, there is not enough water flow on Dry Creek to start an irrigation season, and no hope in sight for a miracle rainy April. 

What are the current water levels on Dry Creek?

Dry Creek - Detailed Water Flow Information

  • A flow of 4 cfs (cubic feet per second) is needed in Dry Creek for fish flows

  • Beyond this, NYWD needs a minimum of 12 ADDITIONAL cfs (cubic feet per second) to divert water to the irrigation intake headworks (pictured below), to start the irrigation season

  • Friday, 3/26/21, Dry Creek water flow measured 6 additional cfs beyond the fish flow requirement

  • Monday, 3/29/21, Dry Creek water flow measured 4 additional cfs beyond the fish flow requirement


What changes in the "2005 Agreement" affected NYWD irrigation water supply?

Prior to this "2005 Agreement", which took affect in 2010, South Feather Water & Power (SFWPA) was guaranteed 11 cfs (cubic feet per second)  at the TOP of the Forbestown Ditch, known as "Turnout SF-14". Losses occurring as this water travelled down the 10 mile open ditch were SFWPA's responsibility. Under this arrangement, and after servicing the NYWD domestic water customers, there was enough water still controlled by NYWD to divert from the Forbestown Ditch for irrigation customers. This water, combined with Dry Creek, were the primary source for NYWD irrigation water.

Once the "2005 Agreement" took affect in 2010, it guaranteed SFWPA 11 cfs at the BOTTOM of the Forbestown Ditch, with all water losses the responsibility of NYWD now. Because the Forbestown Ditch is an open, unpiped, mainly dirt ditch, it losses up to 35% of the conveyed water over the 10 mile span. There was no longer any water of consequence to divert for NYWD irrigation customers. Dry Creek now became the primary source for NYWD irrigation water.

What is the long-term solution to return to consistent irrigation seasons?

Piping the Forbestown Ditch is the only way to counteract the devastating contract changes and keep enough water in the system to use for irrigation customers.

The Forbestown Ditch in its current state can hold a maximum of 22 cfs (cubic feet per second.) Because of the "2005 Agreement", this is just enough water to fulfill our obligation to SFWPA and to the NYWD domestic water customers. Piping the Ditch will allow us to regain water lost during conveyance.

Until the Forbestown Ditch is piped, irrigation customers will continue to be at the mercy of Mother Nature. I urge you to learn more about the Forbestown Ditch piping project and its potential to restore your irrigation season water.

NYWD Irrigation Headworks 3-29-2021.jpg

  • VIDEO: 2018 Irrigation Ditch Repairs

In 2017, we identified locations on the Irrigation Ditches with the worst water loss. As promised, in late summer 2018, we began installing pipe at these hot-spots. A video showing one finished piped area is below. Over the past couple months, our crews have been working on about a dozen locations throughout the irrigation ditches. Piping the worst seepage locations will help us to maximize any water available in coming years.

Thank you for your patience through this process. Should you have any questions, please contact the North Yuba Water District at 530-675-2567.


  • Irrigation Policy Amendment (Approved 5/25/2017) to the irrigation policy fee schedule to include a customer generated call out fee. A fee of $65.00 per call during normal business hours and $170.00 per call after hours and weekends will be charged to the customers when staff investigates a customer complaint and finds that no problem exists. However, if a problem with district facilities is found no fee will be charged.