Despite limited irrigation water available to Turlock Irrigation District growers this year, farmers have been ordering water at near-record levels.
TID growers have used 77,107 acre-feet of irrigation water thus far – more than 20,000 acre-feet greater than the 56,917 acre-feet projected to be used at this point.
“I don't see people reducing (their usage),” said TID Water Distribution Department Manger Mike Kavarian. “We see people right now having their second irrigation on oats.”
The total number of orders placed in 2013 is second highest in TID history, to 2009. The total water usage is on par with wet years like 2011 and 2008.
Some of the early irrigation can be attributed to strong winds and higher than normal temperatures, which can dry crops and force additional irrigation. Other growers are planting – and irrigating – early, planning to finish growing crops like corn by mid-August.
But in talks Kavarian has had with growers, many are expecting this year's irrigation cap to be revised upwards from the 30 acre-inch limit set by TID directors.
“To me, it looks like people believe there's going to be something down the road,” Kavarian said.
Those growers should rethink their plan, Kavarian said, as forecasts show no impending rainfall. Precipitation continues to be below normal, currently hovering at 70.2 percent of average. Coupled with less than usual carryover water, following a historically dry 2012, there simply isn't enough water to increase the cap.
“Somewhere, the train is going to hit,” Kavarian said. “We're going to have people hitting their max, and we're going to have to say no (when they ask for more water).”
The amount of water flowing into TID's Don Pedro Reservoir is currently above expectations, given rainfall totals, but district analysts don't expect that to mean more water will be available to growers. Instead, TID thinks that snow may be melting more quickly than expected, giving the district more water now but less water later, balancing out with projections.
In prior extended droughts, TID was able to pump significant amounts of groundwater to supplement reserves held in Don Pedro Reservoir – as much as 300,000 acre-feet in 1977. But the water table has fallen, leaving the district with plans to pump only about 100,000 acre-feet of water this year.
“There's only so much water in the basin,” TID Director Micheal Frantz said.
On Tuesday, the Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors also:
• Held a public hearing to finalize the inclusion of 16.7 acres owned by the B-6 Dairy into the Carlson-Jerner-Delong Ditch.
• Heard regular weekly updates on electrical service and power generation.
• Began the process to form a new improvement district, to be known as the Lucerne Joint Pipeline, located off TID upper lateral No. 2 1/2 near the intersection of Grayson and Waring Roads. The district would replace an open dirt ditch with a 36-inch pipeline, serving 451.01 acres comprising 23 different growers.
• Authorized Stanislaus County to widen Hatch Road near Santa Fe Avenue in Ceres. The widening will occupy a portion of TID's right of way for the Ceres Main Canal.