Farmers: TID Policy Leads to Wasted Water

David Fransen|

A Turlock Irrigation District policy meant to benefit water-starved farmers may lead to wasted water, TID growers say.

On July 8, the TID Board of Directors agreed to sell an additional 15,000 acre-feet of irrigation water to growers. Under the adopted system, growers must pay in advance for whatever water they order, at a cost of $20 per acre-foot.

But as growers will have already paid for the supplementary water, they're likely to waste it, even if they don't ultimately need it, growers said.

“I think if I pay for it, I'm going to want to use it,” grower Norm Lucas said.

The pay-in-advance system was established to ensure that growers didn't order more water than they needed, TID staff said, and was meant to encourage conservation.

Farmer Wendell Trinkler argued that the water should not have been made available in the first place for growers who failed to plan. TID started the season with a 30-inch allotment, then later raised the allotment to 34 inches.

The final, 15,000 acre-foot bail-out simply benefited farmers who didn't invest in wells, Trinkler said; Trinkler himself has invested $2 million in wells.

“You throw this out there for people what don't have no investment in water,” Trinkler said. “… Where did the water all of a sudden come from?”

It's an art, not a science, determining how much water TID will have to work with, TID Board Chairman Michael Frantz said. A single dry, windy day can result in the loss of 20,000 acre-feet of water – more than the 15,000 acre-feet made available.

When it was determined that additional water was available, TID directors felt compelled to help growers, Frantz said.

“It was an act of compassion to try to put together a plan for people who were down to their last irrigation,” Frantz said.

About 30 customers, representing 58 parcels, ordered roughly 1,500 acre-feet of water on the first day sales were available, TID Water Distribution Department Manager Mike Kavarian said. Though some growers were displeased with what they saw as an onerous sign-up process, taking 20 minutes or more, the majority were satisfied.

“Most of them were happy that they were receiving additional water,” Kavarian said.

On Tuesday, the TID Board of Directors also:
• Approved the $27,500 purchase of a parcel owned by the City of Turlock, which TID mistakenly developed in 2000. The district did not realize that the city owned the property, located at 821 N. Broadway, and the city did not realize TID had turned it into a parking lot.
• In closed session, discussed a case of existing litigation between TID and Pacific Gas & Electric. Ten other potential cases of litigation were discussed.
• Added a new position to the TID classification manual – regulatory analyst – and amended the job description for Director of External Affairs.
• Heard regular weekly updates on power generation, irrigation water availability, and the status of the irrigation season.
• Added 127.5 acres to the Brindero Brothers Pump improvement district, and 77.74 acres to the Swanson-Alvernaz Pump district. The board also approved 51 abandonments from 39 improvement districts, tallying 238.47 acres.
• Canceled the regularly scheduled TID board meeting of Aug. 6.

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