Farmers on Tuesday got a nearly 10 percent increase in the cost of water from the Modesto Irrigation District.
Its board voted 5-0 to boost the basic charge from $27 to $29.50 per acre for 2012 water deliveries. This charge will buy 3 acre-feet of Tuolumne River water per acre, down somewhat from last year because of the dry winter.
Farmers can get an additional half acre-foot for $7.375 per acre. Water in excess of this will be sold for $30 per acre-foot on a case-by-case basis.
An acre-foot is enough water to cover an acre a foot deep.
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Under state law, the increase could have been blocked by protests from a majority of the nearly 3,000 affected landowners. Only 33 objected.
The increase continues a policy under which rates have risen about 10 percent in most years to better cover the water system costs.
Income from the MID's electricity sales makes up the $3 million annual shortfall on the water side — an average of about $27 per power customer.
Some farmers have said they could accept much greater water rate hikes as an alternative to selling some of the MID supply to San Francisco. That city has agreed to pay $700 per acre-foot to start in the first small sale, which could go to a board vote May 22.
The MID allotment includes water that farmers already have used this year, including brief deliveries in January, when the canals usually are empty.
The new water rates also apply to the city of Modesto, which taps the river for much of its supply. The raw water cost is a small part of the total, which includes treatment and piping.