May 22, 2014

MID, TID farmers can get water-wise tips

Drought-stressed farmers in the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts can learn about water-saving practices and emergency aid at a Thursday meeting.

A Thursday meeting will provide water-saving tips to farmers in the Modesto and Turlock irrigation districts, along with information on federal assistance.

The evening gathering comes nearly two months into an irrigation season that likely will be one of the roughest on record. MID and TID are capping per-acre allotments at about half of what’s available in years with adequate rain and snow.

Farmers can tap groundwater and use supplies transferred from fallowed annual crops, but it still looks like a challenging year.

The meeting will feature:

• Milton O’Haire, agricultural commissioner for Stanislaus County, on the impacts of the drought on farming
• Roger Duncan, a farm adviser for the University of California Cooperative Extension, on water-saving practices
• Diana Waller, district conservationist for the federal Natural Resources Conservation Service, on technical and financial assistance available to farmers

As of Wednesday, the snowpack in the central Sierra Nevada stood at 8 percent of average, according to the California Department of Water Resources. A late storm boosted it from 6 percent the day before, but the weather from now until fall is likely to be warm and dry.

Part of the snowpack melts into the Tuolumne River, which supplies MID and TID by way of Don Pedro Reservoir. The Modesto district has capped deliveries at 24 inches per acre. Turlock has a 20-inch cap but will let farmers have 4 more inches to complete their final irrigation.

The restrictions are roughly in the middle of what districts in the San Joaquin Valley face this year. The Oakdale and South San Joaquin irrigation districts on the Stanislaus River are in fairly good shape, although they are handling the water carefully to guard against a dry 2015. The Central California Irrigation District on the West Side is among four that are getting 75 percent of their contracted amount from the federal Central Valley Project, thanks to water rights that predate the system.

Some districts are getting nothing from the CVP this year, and the Merced Irrigation District has drastically cut deliveries from the Merced River.

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