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Wet weather postpones early irrigation season
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An unexpected influx of wet weather this week has put a stop to Turlock Irrigation District’s pre-planned early irrigation period.

Prior to Tuesday morning’s Board of Directors meeting, TID was fully prepared to enter into an early irrigation period starting on or about Jan. 18, said Water Distribution Department Manager Mike Kavarian, but two inches of rainfall in Turlock over the last five days quickly put a stop to the plan.

“I was going to come to the Board to request an early irrigation season, but now, I don’t think we have to worry about that,” Kavarian told the Directors on Tuesday.

Early irrigation periods are typically considered when there is a demand for irrigating water during dry spells that show no sign of relief. TID’s Water Distribution Department looks at several key factors when deciding whether or not an early irrigation period is necessary, said Kavarian, such as the number of days the area has gone without rainfall, the future forecast, temperatures and how much water is in Don Pedro.

When Kavarian and his team originally wrote Tuesday’s early irrigation period memo, “all of the conditions were right” for an early irrigation period, he said. In 2013 and 2014, similar conditions occurred, but due to the drought there was not enough water available to enact an early irrigation period.

As of Tuesday, the Tuolumne River Watershed had accumulated 7.76 inches of precipitation since September – just 54.3 percent of average for the date – and just .72 inches total in the month of January.

Turlock had also only received an inch of rain since September, and the future forecast showed at least two weeks without rain. TID had also received multiple calls from customers who needed water, Kavarian added, and an ample amount of water in both Don Pedro and Turlock Lake thanks to last winter’s record-breaking rainfall led the Water Distribution Department to create an early irrigation period memo to take to the Board for approval.

“Come to find out as soon as we signed that memo, it started raining on Wednesday and has been raining ever since,” said Kavarian.

While Turlock has already received two inches of rain as of Tuesday, the area’s future forecast looks good, too. Over the next 16 days, the Tuolumne River Watershed is expected to receive up to six inches of rain – two inches in that period’s first eight days, and three to four in the last eight days.

Now, instead of beginning the early irrigation period sometimes next week, Kavarian will check back in with the Board if conditions worsen to see if they would like to approve the memo.

The irony of preparing an early irrigation period memo only to have a storm roll into town was not lost on the Board or Kavarian, who said this is nothing short of normal.

“We’ve had three early irrigation periods since 2000,” said Kavarian. “Every year we’ve had the early irrigation season, the next day it started raining. Every one of them.”