Modesto Irrigation District officially will declare drought

04/21/2014 3:59 PM

04/21/2014 6:21 PM

Might as well make it official.

The Modesto Irrigation District board is poised today to declare that we’re in a drought.

“No one asked for it,” spokeswoman Melissa Williams said Monday. But others such as the governor and the Turlock Irrigation District have issued such declarations, she said, so MID officials will, too.

The board also will consider some rules for farmers participating in either of two programs meant to help stretch limited supplies. Those buying or selling water shares, whether directly to other growers on the open market or at a fixed price managed by the district, could be required to provide well data such as pump size, depth and gallons-per-minute capacity.

That information might be turned over to a Stanislaus County committee charged with recommending rules for regulating groundwater, a report says. The district supports the county’s effort “to develop uniform well monitoring and groundwater modeling,” and the data should help inform MID’s groundwater management plan, the report says.

The voluntary transfer programs are mentioned in the draft drought declaration to be considered at this morning’s board meeting. The document cites a third consecutive dry winter, leaving water at “among the lowest levels in the history of Don Pedro Reservoir” and reducing this year’s deliveries to 24 inches per acre, 43 percent less than usual.

The board last week raised water rates 10 percent and adopted an $11.91-per-acre drought surcharge, and will “strictly enforce” its new rules against water theft, including a $1,500 fine for a first offense, the document says.

“The declaration is a result of the culmination of all of our drought activities and is a good way for us to bring them all together and officially recognize that we are in a drought,” Williams said in an email.

The board also will review progress of stepped-up efforts to combat electricity theft.

New technology has detected 64 “power diversion” violations this year, enabling the district to issue bills worth an extra $82,000 and to correct “multiple unsafe conditions,” a report says. The program could save MID $450,000 a year partly because people aware of it might think twice before trying to steal power, and that savings keeps honest customers from having to cover losses, the report says.

The board meeting will start at 9 a.m. today at the district office, 1231 11th St., Modesto. For more information, visit http://mid.granicus.com/GeneratedAgendaViewer.php?view_id=1&event_id=115.

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