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MID will deliver 60% of usual water amid continued drought - Energy And Water Development Corp

MID will deliver 60% of usual water amid continued drought

The Modesto Irrigation District will deliver about 60% of its usual water this year because of the persistent drought.

The district board voted 5-0 Tuesday morning for this allotment from the Tuolumne River. It affects about 58,000 acres of farmland, as well as a treatment plant that eases reliance on groundwater in Modesto and a few other towns.

MID is in relatively good shape as California’s drought enters its third year. The Turlock Irrigation District, which also diverts from the Tuolumne, has not yet set a 2022 allotment for its nearly 150,000 acres.

MID and TID both provided about 80% of the usual water last year. They can endure droughts thanks to strong river rights and the vast capacity of Don Pedro Reservoir.

The same goes for the Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts on the Stanislaus River. Neither has set a 2022 allotment.

It was zero last year for some of the West Side districts served by the federal Central Valley Project. It plans to announce the 2022 supplies Wednesday.

‘Keep all of us alive and vibrant’

MID’s vote includes a program that allows farmers to shift part of their supplies to others along the canal system. Some might not need all of their water because, for example, they are fallowing land or have access to wells.

MID has used the Farmer to Farmer Delivery Program in dry years since 2014. Several growers urged the board Tuesday to make it permanent via another vote next month.

“The Farmer to Farmer transfer is what’s going to keep all of us alive and vibrant going through our drier yeas,” said John Boer, a customer west of Modesto.

MID will start its irrigation season Friday, several weeks early because of the extremely dry weather in recent weeks. January and February usually have storms that keep the soil moist, but none have come so far in 2022.

The storm season started well with rain and snow in late October and an especially wet December. The snowpack in the Tuolumne watershed was about 160% of average as the calendar year ended.

The watershed was just 72% of average for Feb. 22, said Jason Word, irrigation field services manager, at the MID meeting. No storms are forecast over the next 16 days, he said.

30 vertical inches over season

MID will cap its farmers at 30 vertical inches of water over the irrigation season, which runs to mid-autumn. It delivered up to 36 inches last year, about 80% of what’s available in wetter times. The district got as low as 18 inches during the latter part of the 2012-16 drought, which was followed by the wettest year on record in 2017.

Word said the 2022 allotment is designed to leave enough carryover storage in Don Pedro to provide at least 30 inches next year.

The Merced Irrigation District might deliver just 12 inches this year because of low storage in McClure Reservoir. Its board could vote March 1 on how to use the Merced River supply.

Many users of the CVP on the West Side got zero water last year because of drought and fish protections in the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. The allotment was 75% for about a quarter-million acres with senior rights, stretching from Crows Landing to Firebaugh.

AA Wood Colony 03.JPG
MID canal runs through Wood Colony in Wood Colony, Calif., on Friday, June 12, 2020. Andy Alfaro

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John Holland covers agriculture, transportation and general assignment news. He has been with The Modesto Bee since 2000 and previously worked at newspapers in Sonora and Visalia. He was born and raised in San Francisco and has a journalism degree from UC Berkeley.

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