SSJID board OKs bountiful water for farmers

New Melones Reservoir in February 2017
New Melones Reservoir in February 2017

To the surprise of no one, the South San Joaquin Irrigation District approved a full water allotment Tuesday.

Its board voted unanimously to have no cap thanks to abundant rain and snow in the Stanislaus River watershed for the farmers around Ripon, Manteca and Escalon. The drought in 2015 forced the first-ever limit in SSJID’s century-plus history.

SSJID tentatively plans to launch irrigation season Tuesday, but that could be delayed because of a forecast for wet weather, General Manager Peter Rietkerk said. District crews also are still working on storm damage to the canals.

The full supply also applies to domestic water for Manteca, Lathrop and Tracy. They use the treated river supply to supplement wells.

“The board did continue to encourage our customers to be prudent stewards of the resource and prevent unnecessary and wasteful use,” Rietkerk said.

SSJID fared relatively well during the five-year drought, but it was concerned about low carryover in New Melones Reservoir because of federal releases for lower-river fish. That storage site was at 70 percent of capacity as of Monday, less than other major reservoirs but far better than last year.

The Oakdale Irrigation District, partner with SSJID on the Stanislaus, also is planning full deliveries 2017. The same goes for the Modesto and Turlock districts on the Tuolumne River and the Merced Irrigation District on the Merced River.

John Holland: 209-578-2385