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10% water cuts to Manteca & Lathrop possible
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California’s drought is about to hit home.

The South San Joaquin Irrigation District board Tuesday may notify the cities of Manteca, Lathrop and Tracy that they are facing the strong possibility of having their 2009 treated water deliveries reduced by 10 percent.

If it happens  - and SSJID General Manger Jeff Shields warns it is increasing in probability with every passing day without major snow in the Sierra – the cities will be asked to tighten up efforts to conserve water by enforcing rules against hosing down sidewalks, gutter flooding, watering yards between noon and 6 p. m., and a host of other restrictions.

Congressmen Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa sent a letter Feb. 2 to new Secretary of the Interior Ken Salazar that reads, “Unless the months of February and March bring above average rain and snowfall, the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation is expected to provide no Central Valley Project Water to South-of-the-Delta agricultural service contractors. A zero allocation is unprecedented in the history of the CVP.”

The State Water Project last week indicated it may reduce its original projection on water deliveries downward. Several months ago the State Water Project indicated they would only deliver 15 percent of water allocations.

The SSJID watershed on the Stanislaus River is in better shape than much of the state despite this being the third driest year in the 100-year history of the district.

Even so, if there is a severe water shortage the state could exercise emergency powers to shift water.

SSJID and Oakdale Irrigation District share historic water rights to 600,000 acre feet on the Stanislaus that was established with the original Melones Dam the two agencies built in 1925. In the agreement to replace the dam with the New Melones, the Bureau of Reclamation gave the two districts the right to split the first 600,000 acre feet of run-off that flows into the 1.2 million acre reservoir.

In the 2007-08 water years, the two districts received 587,366 acre feet or all of the inflow. Based on existing snow conditions, the inflow to New Melones is projected at 265,300 acre feet. If that pans out, SSJID would receive 132,500 acre feet instead of 300,000 acre feet. The run-off is the third lowest in history. There was only 261,100 acre feet of run-off in 1923-24, the driest year recorded on the Stanislaus River.

The district board also may invest $75,000 for a real time management system of irrigation line openings and closings to keep a tighter track of water than manual notes taken by ditch tenders.

At the same time, they also may notify Stanislaus County Parks and Recreation Department they may operate Woodward Reservoir at minimum level of 198 feet instead of at 210 feet. The reason is the surface area of the water is less. Woodward Reservoir is estimated to lose between 20,000 and 30,000 acre feet of water a year. Keeping the water at higher elevation in deeper reservoirs reduces losses due to evaporating and seepage. That will have two impacts. First, Woodard Reservoir user fees account for a third of the Stanislaus County Parks and Recreation Department’s annual revenue.

Second, less water could lead to less seepage which ultimately will impact underground aquifers tapped by farmers who don’t use surface water.