TID Approves Early Start to 2012 Irrigation Season Due to Severely Dry Conditions

The 2012 water year is shaping up to be the driest year on record. Even if conditions change, resulting in average rainfall from this point forward, this year would be the fourth driest year on record.

The 2012 Irrigation Season will start March 8, as approved by the Board at this morning’s Turlock Irrigation District (TID) Board meeting. This is a comparatively earlier start than previous seasons due to the dry winter and lack of precipitation.

TID announced that dry weather conditions in December and early January prompted the District to make irrigation water available through an early 10-day irrigation period in late-January. Since that time, continued dry conditions coupled with temperatures warming into the 70s resulted in starting the 2012 Irrigation Season on Thursday, March 8.

The Board approved the irrigation season to run from March 8 through Oct. 10, with a 24-inch per acre allotment and a 30-inch cap. TID also announced that growers would receive the allotment at the basic water charge of $26 per acre. The additional six inches of water can be purchased above the allotment at $15 per acre-foot.

According to the Water Report given during this morning’s TID meeting by Utility Analyst Jason Carkeet, February saw a very diminutive amount of precipitation, with about 1.47 inches.

Carkeet also reported 2012 to be one of the driest years on record, with the driest year on record currently being 1977. Should these dry conditions continue, however, TID staff members believe that 2012 “is shaping to be the driest year on record.”

In drier years, the District has practiced reserving the carryover storage in Don Pedro Reservoir for future use by implementing a combination of measures aimed at optimizing water supplies. Measures have included reducing surface water releases, increasing rented and drainage pumping to supplement surface water supplies, minimizing operational spills, and reducing the length of the irrigation season.

The next 16-day forecast of rainfall is only half of the average rainfall, with an estimated 2 inches as opposed to the average 4 inches. Staff members reported that long term planning criteria would require drastic reductions to water supply due to the severity of the dry conditions.

The 24-inch allotment and 30-inch cap do provide sufficient carryover storage for 2013 should the dry conditions persist for the remainder of this year

“The main issue is not so much this year, but next year,” stated Water Planning Department Manager Debbie Liebersbach. “If conditions (continue to) exist next year also, there is a probability that the minimum carryover will not be reached.”

Liebersbach also stated that the 24-inch per acre allotment is the lowest recommendation yet.

“We haven’t done 24 inches before, not since I’ve been here,” she explained.

Public comment during the Board Meeting included farmers who were concerned about the 30-inch cap for their irrigation needs. There was expressed hesitation to rent out privately owned pumps to the TID, as some claimed that they had invested too much already.

One concerned private pump-owner said he would not be signing up a majority of his pumps for rental by TID. “I’m not one to waste water,” he explained. “I just want everything I need for my crops.” Another concerned private pump-owner added, “I’m not one to over irrigate, but with this much invested, I should be able to get what I want.”

TID Board Director of Division 4, Dr. Rob Santos, shed some encouragement regarding the 30-inch cap however, stating that the 30-inch cap is a good start, as it is “too risky to go beyond that.” After the April 1st Snow Survey, however, the TID staff will update the board regarding the direction of water supply and may recommend possible changes to the allotment.

TID announced that growers would be able to begin placing water orders on Wednesday, March 7 by calling the TID Irrigation Call Center at 883-8456. Outstanding water charges and assessment balances must be paid in order to receive irrigation water.

TID has also announced preseason grower meetings beginning February 28th. This will include a series of five meetings designed specifically for TID’s irrigation water customers. The informational meetings will provide information regarding the current water year and the upcoming irrigation season, in addition to an update on state laws and legislation.

These meetings will be held on the five following dates and times:

-Tuesday, February 28 • 7 p.m.
Hilmar Hilmar Community Center • 20079 Falke St.

-Wednesday, February 29 • 7 p.m.
Turlock Chatom School • 7201 Clayton Rd.

-Thursday, March 1• 7 p.m.
Hughson Hughson Community Center • 2307 4th St.

-Monday, March 5 • 7 p.m. •
Turlock Turlock Irrigation District Boardroom • 333 E. Canal Dr.

-Wednesday, March 7 • 7 p.m.
Westport Westport Fire Station • 5160 S. Carpenter Rd.

The Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors meets regularly every Tuesday morning at 9am, located in the Board Room at the Main Office Building, located on 333 East Canal Drive.

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