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Dry forecast prompts SSJID to start water deliveries week of March 19
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Mother Nature isn’t going to bring four days of rain mid-month as forecasters had hoped.

The change of the outlook for precipitation in the next 30 days prompted the San Joaquin Irrigation District board Tuesday to decide to start the 2009 irrigation season on the last day of winter – Thursday, March 19 - instead of waiting until the first week of April.

Originally, the board had hoped four days of rain forecasted to start March 15 would tide growers over until April. A revised forecast  and the chance of crops, orchards, and vines going 20 days without water as the temperatures are starting to warm up with the potential for drying winds prompted the board to switch to the earlier delivery day. The National Weather Service is now calling for temperatures to reach the mid-70s next week.

Typically, farm deliveries start in mid-March. Due to the tight water season caused by California’s third year of drought, the district had hoped to stretch its water supply.

The only outlook for rain is now for one day, ironically on March 20 which is the first day of spring.

The district is unique among water suppliers in the state as the SSJID has enough water to meet 100 percent of its local demand. Even so, the district is implementing strict operating rules in a bid to reduce water waste.

SSJID spokesperson Troylene Sayler emphasized the board is calling on urban users in Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy to be as frugal as possible. The district in several months will assess its water usage and supplies to see what can be made available to help other struggling parts of the state by transferring water.

SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields previously noted conserving water locally could very well end up saving farm jobs elsewhere especially in economically depressed areas of the Southern San Joaquin Valley as well as protect the fragile Delta ecosystem.

Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger has declared a drought emergency as California enters its third year of dry conditions. The governor called for everyone in California to reduce water consumption by at least 20 percent so those areas in need can get water.