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Dry winter leads to possible 24-inch irrigation allotment

POSTED February 24, 2012 9:45 p.m.

The 2012 Turlock Irrigation District irrigation season could see an allotment half that of 2011's season.

On Tuesday, the TID Board of Directors will consider approving an irrigation season running from March 8 through Oct. 10, with a 24-inch per acre allotment and a 30-inch cap. Should TID directors approve the plan, the district would begin accepting water orders on March 7.

Previous TID discussions had suggested an allotment as large as 36-inches per acre this irrigation season.

The proposed 2012 allotment is half that of the 48-inch per acre allotment in historically rainy 2011, when the district did not cap water use. The 2011 season began two days later, on March 10, 2011, and ended nearly a month later than proposed for 2012, closing Nov. 1, 2011 – the latest running season in TID history.

But a historically rainless winter has already forced TID to conduct a rare 10-day early irrigation season in January, just to allow farmers to save water-starved row crops.

Precipitation levels haven't improved since that early irrigation season, with the latest California Department of Water Resources projections indicating runoff values at 25 percent of normal should dry conditions continue.

Per TID, 2012 is “shaping up to be drier than 1977,” one of the driest years on record. Even if average rainfall is recorded for the rest of the year, 2012 would be the sixth driest year on record.

In preparations for a potential continued drought, TID staff recommended the 24-inch allotment and 30-inch cap to allow sufficient carryover storage should dry conditions continue. The proposed allotment would see the district carry over 480,000 acre-feet of water in storage for 2013, allowing for a 20-inch allotment – wiping out all Don Pedro Reservoir storage in the process – should no rain whatsoever fall in 2013.

Following Tuesday's board meeting, TID will hold a series of preseason grower meetings to discuss irrigation water allotments with the District's irrigation water customers.

Meetings will be held at: 7 p.m. Tuesday at the Hilmar Community Center, 20079 Falke St.; 7 p.m. Wednesday at Chatom School, 7201 Clayton Rd.; 7 p.m. Thursday in the Hughson Community Center, 2307 4th St.; 7 p.m. March 5 in the TID Boardroom, 333 E. Canal Dr.; and, 7 p.m. March 7 at the Westport Fire Station, 5160 S. Carpenter Rd.

Following the April 1 snow survey, TID staff will update the board on the water supply outlook, and may recommend changes.

The TID Board of Directors will meet at 9 a.m. Tuesday in the TID Boardroom, located at 333 E. Canal Dr.

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