A past Turlock Irrigation District water distribution operator and current candidate for the TID board says the district is wasting too much water in this dry year.
According to Darrell Monroe, a candidate for the Division 5 seat currently held by Ron Macedo, TID has spilled 40,000 acre-feet of water this irrigation season.
“They're spilling 10,000 acre-feet in a month,” Monroe said. “It's bad management.”
“Spills” occur when irrigation water reaches the end of the TID system, with nowhere to go but the river. Though the water isn't entirely wasted, it isn't used for its intended purpose: growing crops in the district.
TID spokesperson Herb Smart confirmed that approximately 40,000 acre-feet of water had been spilled as of Aug. 31. That tallies about 7 percent of the total irrigation water sent through the district's system, Smart said.
Monroe said that when he was a water distribution operator, as little as 2 percent of total water was spilled in some dry years.
But the district's spills are actually lower than last year, another critically dry year, when TID spilled 9 percent of water. Though spills were as low as 5 percent between 2008-2009, Smart says the district's spills have never been as low as 2 percent.
A certain level of spillage is nearly unavoidable without negatively impacting TID customers near the end of canals. If the system isn't fully charged with water, those growers can receive less than their allotted water, or water rife with sediment.
“The district acknowledges that this is a dry year, and staff has been instructed throughout the season to reduce spills as much as possible without negatively affecting the level of service we provide to irrigation customers,” Smart said.
From 1991 to 2011, the district averaged 60,000 acre-feet of spilled water each year. Looking only at dry years during that period, an average of 36,000 acre-feet – or 6 percent – was spilled.
Though the figures appear to be on par with past years, Monroe attributed this year's spills to unskilled water distribution operators and poor district practices. Monroe disagrees with the decision to pump more than 150,000 acre-feet of water, while letting 40,000 acre-feet spill.
“It don't make sense to be running pumps and spilling water,” Monroe said.