The 2019 irrigation season is set to begin Thursday with an ample amount of water, but could be pushed back if incoming clouds provide enough rain.
After substantially wet winter, which included a well above-average February, the Turlock Irrigation District Board of Directors on Tuesday approved dates for this year’s irrigation season — from March 28 through Oct. 30. However, incoming rainy weather could postpone the season’s start if the predicted precipitation is enough to quench the thirst of local crops.
“What I’d like to do, if we could, is to go through this process and potentially approve the resolution, and then depending on what goes on with the weather over the next couple of days, I may push the season back a week depending on how much precipitation does occur,” said TID Water Distribution Department Manager Mike Kavarian.
According to TID Hydrology Utility Analyst Olivia Cramer, the Tuolumne River Watershed is projected to receive anywhere from one to two inches within the next eight days, and four inches of rain over the next 16 days.
The slight rainfall comes after a February which saw 13.7 inches of rain — more than double the historical average for the month — and already 5.6 inches in March, which surpasses the historical average for this month as well with eight days remaining.
The water year to date, which began in September, has produced 36.3 inches of precipitation, compared to the historical average for that time of 30.66. This has resulted in an ample snowpack, which statewide is currently at 156 percent of normal for this date.
Just as they did following the wettest year on record in 2016-2017, the Board of Directors approved a 48-inch irrigation cap for the season on Tuesday. The U.S. Drought Monitor declared on March 14 that California is free of drought for the first time in more than seven years.
In addition to the 48-inch allotment, TID will also provide additional water to those who need it for crop production. Irrigation water will cost $60 per acre, and TID will begin taking orders March 27.
Kavarian said that TID staff will continue to monitor the upcoming forecast, and update the Board as needed on the start of the irrigation season and any changes that may come as a result of the weather.
“It’s nothing significant, but we all know a half inch (of rain) here and there will be okay for most customers,” he said.