Irrigation Season Set to Start Thursday

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Just days remain until growers in the Turlock Irrigation District will start receiving this year’s water allotment.

TID staff expect a smooth start to irrigation season, set to kick off Thursday, after weeks spent preparing.

“We should be ready to roll,” said TID Water Distribution Department Manager Mike Kavarian.

Over the past few weeks, TID staff have gradually transferred water down the Tuolumne River from Don Pedro Reservoir to Turlock Lake, where water is stored before entering TID canals. Since Jan. 6, the Lake’s waters have nearly doubled from a winter storage level of about 13,000 acre-feet of water to its current level or 25,000 acre-feet of water.

The District started diverting water into its irrigation system on Monday, slowly filling the 250 miles of canal that irrigate nearly 150,000 valley acres. On Tuesday, water reached the Highline Canal.

The next step of the process begins Wednesday, as TID Customer Service Representatives will begin fielding water orders. And on Thursday the first growers will begin to receive water.

Due to an exceptionally dry January and February, coupled with a historically dry 2012 water year, growers will receive only 30 inches of water this year. The cap is the lowest since 1988.

Though news of the small cap wasn’t taken well at recent growers meetings, directors were forced to set the low cap in case next year is even drier. Should no rain fall whatsoever in the 2014 water year, TID would still carry over enough water for about a 22 inch allotment next summer.

“The farmers, although they may not have liked what we’re doing, they understood,” said TID Director Ron Macedo.

Directors previously stated that any unexpected rain could result in an increased irrigation water cap. Tuesday’s updated forecast brought little hope of that, with only 1 inch of precipitation expected in the next week and no rain due in the following week.

The lack of rain has dropped water availability projections even further.

“We see actually that week further out now with little precipitation has dropped that runoff prediction by 70,000 acre-feet,” TID Utility Analyst Jason Carkeet said.

Should the remainder of the year be dry, Carkeet forecasts only 853,871 acre-feet of carryover water storage. A Feb. 26 forecast showed 911,042 acre-feet of carryover water if conditions were dry from that point forward, but the lack of rain has been even more extreme than expected.

Irrigation water orders may be placed by calling (209) 883-8456. The irrigation season will end Oct. 9, unless adjusted by TID Directors.

On Tuesday, the TID Board of Directors also:
• Established a deferred regulatory asset account, representing the outstanding debt on TID’s Fuel Cell project. The debt will be retired this year, through customer rates.
The 1.2 megawatt powerplant was installed in 2007, but never operated up to expectations. The Fuel Cell has since been taken out of service.
• Continued the improvement district inclusion process, adding 16.7 acres owned by B-6 Dairy to the Carlson-Jerner-DeLong Ditch.
• Heard weekly updates on electrical service, power generation, and irrigation water availability.

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