The board of the Turlock Irrigation District voted 5-0 Tuesday to fix up a small, abandoned reservoir near Hilmar to conserve canal water.
The $2.34 million project will catch water from the Highline Canal that now is released into the Merced River when flows are unexpectedly high. The water will go into Laterals 7 and 8, which serve farmland near the south end of TID’s territory.
A staff report said the project will save an average of 2,550 acre-feet of water per year, and a future expansion could boost that to about 9,000. TID delivers close to 360,000 acre-feet in a normal year throughout its service area, but the drought has cut 2014 supplies roughly in half.
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 project is scheduled to be completed by the start of the 2015 irrigation season. The board also approved spending $960,000 on automated gates that will 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 town of Hilmar. The TID board appointed General Manager Casey Hashimoto to negotiate the purchase of the property.
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.