A small, abandoned reservoir near Hilmar could become a means of conserving water for the Turlock Irrigation District.
Its board on Tuesday will consider spending $2.34 million to fix up the reservoir, part of a former water treatment plant, so it could catch canal water that otherwise would run into the Merced River.
The project would save an average of 2,550 acre-feet of water per year, and a future expansion could boost that to about 9,000, a staff report said.
TID delivers close to 360,000 acre-feet in a normal year throughout its service area, which stretches to south Modesto. It is providing a little less than half of that this year because of the drought.
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The district, which gets its water from the Tuolumne River and wells, also faces a long-term reduction in the river supply because of state and federal efforts to protect fish.
The reservoir site is close to where the Highline Canal spills into the Merced when its level is higher than expected, the report said. The captured water would go into Laterals 7 and 8, which branch off the Highline.
The project could be completed in time for the 2015 irrigation season. The staff also proposes spending $960,000 on automated gates that would make flows on Lateral 8 more consistent.
The reservoir site is owned by the Hilmar County Water District, which provides water and sewer service to the city of Hilmar. The TID board is being asked to appoint General Manager Casey Hashimoto to negotiate the purchase of the property.
TID looked at the reservoir project in 1998, the staff report said, but it could not justify the cost. It did build a connection between Laterals 7 and 8 to improve operations.
Modesto Irrigation District, which also draws from the Tuolumne, also has been looking at building small reservoirs to catch canal water that now ends up in natural streams.