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Woodward Reservoir key to low SSJID water rates

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Ariel Aldanabenitiez of Stockton does a flip into Woodward Lake at the Picnic Point Day Use area northeast of Manteca.

HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin/

POSTED September 19, 2013 12:49 a.m.

Most reservoirs in California are dropping to near low record  levels this month. That’s not the case with Woodward Reservoir.

When midnight on Monday, Sept. 30, rolls around, the South San Joaquin Irrigation District’s in-district storage reservoir will be right at 210 feet with water filling the entire 36,000 acre capacity.

“If you want to enjoy the lake at its highest elevation this is the time to do it,” noted SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields.

The district strives each year to move every possible drop it can from its New Melones Reservoir water storage account into Woodward Reservoir. That’s because the federal water year ends on Sept. 30.

Such a strategy serves three purposes. It creates room in the New Melones Reservoir  to maximize runoff to build up the district’s water reserves for the following irrigation season. It provides in-district storage to assure late season and early season irrigation deliveries if needed for farms. And it assures a year-round surface water supply for the cities of Manteca, Tracy, and Lathrop and eventually Ripon and Escalon as well.

Woodward Reservoir also plays a key role in making sure the SSJID territory is one of the best areas situated for water supplies in California. It also helps keep waster rates charged to farmers at some of the lowest, if not the lowest in the state.

The SSJID’s pre-1914 adjucdicated water rights coupled with a well thought out storage system and aggressive state-of-the-art conservation strategies means SSJID farmers are paying $6 per acre foot for water. Those water rights protect the district’s front-of-the-line  300,000 acre feet of run-off on the Stanislaus River water shed.

Contrast that with farmers in the Westlands Water District in the western southern San Joaquin Valley with its massive corporate farming operations that are paying $300 per acre for water and in San Diego where the water goes as high as $800 an acre foot. Most water districts in California charge $100 plus per acre foot for water.

An acre foot of water is roughly the same as a regulation football field being covered with water a foot deep.

The SSJID’s low water rates haven’t stopped the district from amassing tens of millions in reserves from water sales and how it manages water. That is in addition for twice during the past 22 years suspending water charges for a year. State regulations eventually forced the district to stop that practice.

Woodward Reservoir’s recreation component is operated by the Stanislaus County Parks and Recreation Department. The lake offers camping, boating, fishing, and an abundance of water sports.

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