The decision was touted as nothing less than “historic” by Turlock Irrigation District Director Michael Frantz.
Earlier this month, the TID Board of Directors authorized the formation of the first pressurized improvement district in the TID service area. The Miller-Muller Micro-Sprinkler District will convert almost 200 acres of land near Denair from flood irrigation to micro-sprinklers and drip irrigation.
“We’ve been talking about a pressurized improvement district on my side of the river since the ‘70s,” Frantz said.
The formation of the Miller-Muller Micro-Sprinkler District dates back not to the 1970s, but to August 2010. It was then that growers started meeting in garages, building support among neighbors for the improvement district’s formation.
“This project was a long time in the making,” said Bart Muller.
It was no small task to get eight different growers on board, said TID Water Distribution Department Manager Mike Kavarian. It took the support of an additional dozen neighbors, too, who granted the project needed easements.
But the effort was worth it to growers, who gain more control over irrigation with the conversion.
“They have water on demand when they may need it,” Kavarian said.
Rather than run low-pressure water through 80-year-old concrete pipelines, the new system uses PVC pipes. The water comes from TID canals, is pressurized, then can be used to run water-efficient micro-sprinklers and drip irrigation systems for longer durations, at lower flows.
As news of the pressurized improvement district has spread among TID growers, others are beginning to consider forming similar districts, Kavarian said. Some customers have inquired about forming districts as large as 500 acres.
TID hopes that the Miller-Muller Micro-Sprinkler District can be used as a template of sorts, giving other growers a good starting point to form a pressurized improvement district. Interested parties can ask questions of the Miller-Muller district members, learning the pros and cons of the conversion.
“Now, at least, we have one we can send people to look at,” Kavarian said.
Kavarian notes there are roadblocks – the sheer scope of installing a pressurized improvement district will likely take at least a year of work.
But despite the challenge of forming the TID’s first pressurized improvement district, Kavarian said making the Miller-Muller Micro-Sprinkler District was made easy by the smooth communication between improvement district members and TID.
“If you have good people to work with it tends to go a lot smoother,” Kavarian said.