July 9, 2013

Turlock Irrigation District calls off water purchase from MID

The Turlock Irrigation District has called off a deal to buy extra water this year from the Modesto Irrigation District, saying mountain snowmelt is a little more plentiful than feared earlier.

The Turlock Irrigation District has called off a deal to buy extra water this year from the Modesto Irrigation District, saying mountain snowmelt is a little more plentiful than feared earlier.

Also, TID farmers can pay a premium for water beyond this year's restricted allotment of 34 vertical inches per acre, board members decided on a 4-0 vote with board chairman Michael Frantz absent.

The MID four weeks ago agreed in concept to sell its neighbor up to 7,000 acre-feet, a move widely supported despite previous heated opposition to the idea of shopping water to San Francisco at a much higher price.

The MID-TID deal was not final and TID leaders on Tuesday canceled it, saying Tuolumne River flows into Don Pedro Reservoir, owned jointly by the partner districts, have been better than projected.

The TID in February announced that its customers would get only 30 inches of water per acre this season — far lower than the typical 48-inch allotment. The district boosted that to 34 inches in May as runoff projections improved for land without access to pumps.

The MID will deliver a 36-inch base per acre this season, with more available at higher rates. The MID serves 3,100 farms on 58,000 acres compared with the TID's 4,900 customers on 150,000 acres, making the TID the largest irrigation district in the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

This week, Don Pedro storage is about 64 percent of capacity. That's less than the average for this time of year — 78 percent — but about 22 feet higher than analysts had predicted in May.

"Even with the increase, TID recognizes that some of its customers will still need additional water," a report says.

So the TID board agreed Tuesday to sell an extra 15,000 acre-feet to irrigators who pay up-front at $20 per acre-foot, the most that can be charged in the district's volumetric pricing system effective this year. The district will not refund money if farmers end up using less than they pay for.

Officials don't think demand will exceed 15,000 acre-feet, said district spokesman Herb Smart. It's a small amount compared with the TID's historic yearly consumption of 580,000 acre-feet.

The TID had arranged to pay the MID $100 per acre-foot for 7,000 acre-feet. That's five times the highest charge in the TID rate structure but far less than San Francisco's 2012 proposal of $700 per acre-foot. The MID board in September rejected the idea amid concerns of leaving area farmers and domestic users short in dry years.

MID spokeswoman Melissa Williams called negotiations with the TID successful even though the deal was dropped.

"We were happy to be able to offer assistance to our partner," Williams said. "If there is a similar need in the future, we will have a very good framework to revisit."

Without specifying amounts or prices, the Oakdale Irrigation District last week offered additional water to the MID, the TID and San Francisco, which draws from higher on the Tuolumne and already was talking with the OID about a possible supplement for next year. MID and TID leaders appear to be trying to make do without the extra help.

In other MID news Tuesday, the board:

Supported the city of Modesto's pitch to refinance a loan used to build a treatment plant delivering tap water. The plant was completed in 1995; Modesto still owes $52.6 million and might save $4.7 million by taking advantage of lower interest rates.

Learned that the district last week met electricity demands despite several days of temperatures exceeding 100 degrees, and could have produced more if necessary.

All customers in a volunteer program lost the use of air conditioners in 10-minute cycles, reducing the district's total load, which reached a high of 656 megawatts when the temperature spiked at 106 degrees July 2. By comparison, the load during a July 2006 heat wave spiked at 720 megawatts.

The district kept idle only one of two generators in Ripon, just in case, and did not fire up its older McClure generator. If needed, those sources could produce an extra 181 megawatts, the board learned.

Bee staff writer Garth Stapley can be reached at or (209) 578-2390.

Related content



Editor's Choice Videos