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SSJID water outlook good as irrigation season starts

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POSTED March 12, 2013 12:32 a.m.

Water started flowing shortly without a hitch after midnight Monday to nearly 60,000 acres of Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon farmland.

The South San Joaquin Irrigation District started 2013 water deliveries without supply concerns plaguing other California irrigation districts.

The driest January-February combo on record other irrigation districts in California has create anxiety as to whether farmers - and in some cases cities - in many parts of the state will receive their full allotment of water this year.

The Bureau of Reclamation has notified SSJID and the Oakdale Irrigation District that the two agencies should expect full delivery of their 600,000 acre feet of historic water rights on the Stanislaus River watershed.

The SSJID/OID water rights are superior to those committed by the Bureau. That’s because the two districts built the original Melones Dam in 1925 that was financed entirely with local property taxes. In order to build New Melones Reservoir with 2.4 million acre feet to serve water interests elsewhere in the state, the two water districts had to agree to allow the original dam to be inundated.

The Department of Water Resources at the start of March reported that the snowpack and precipitation in the Sierra - the state’s primary reservoir - is 70 percent of normal.

Manmade reservoirs in the Sacramento Valley and surrounding mountains had heavier November and December snowfall than the San Joaquin Valley basin. That is why the state water agency is projecting a dry water year for the Sacramento Valley and a critical water year for the San Joaquin Valley.

In addition, court imposed rules triggered due to a high Delta Smelt death count has reduced pumping significantly at Tracy. That in turn is reducing water deliveries to Southern California and Southern San Joaquin Valley farms.

Almonds are the biggest irrigated crop in the SSJID service territory with 33,000 acres followed by alfalfa at 6,000, grapes at 6,000, pastureland at 5,200, walnuts at 2,400 and peaches at 1,800. The rest is split between a diversity of crops ranging from corn to melons.

The district also supplies surface water to the cities of Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy.

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