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SSJID farmers cut water use, increase crop yield
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The Division 9 system’s reservoir and irrigation pumps. - photo by GLENN KAHL/The Bulletin

Pressurized delivery of irrigation water to farmers west of Ripon and south of Manteca is saving 12,500 acre feet of water a year or enough to cover the indoor and outdoor water use of 13,000  typical California household for a year.

More than a 100 people got a look at the state-of-the-art South San Joaquin Irrigation District Division 9 project that serves as a water industry model for innovation irrigation delivery during a field day on Thursday.

General Manager Peter Rietkerk explained how the $14 million irrigation system serving 3,800 acres that previous relied on flood irrigation works. The facility has drawn worldwide attention for its efficiency in water delivery to farms. It has been bestowed four national awards and three international awards.

Farmers can order water and control movement of water on their property via apps on smartphones or i-Pads. Water can be available to farmers within 24 hours and sometimes less after an order is placed via the on-demand system. The computerized system that eliminates the need for traditional ditch tenders can handle up to seven orders in the queue at any one time.

Benefits include:

substantial savings of water.

reduced farm run-off.

improved air quality by eliminating the need for diesel pumps.

farmers report significantly improved crop yields.

due to water savings and more efficient delivery, it eliminated the need for farmers to supplement surface deliveries with ground water pumping meaning the aquifer is seeing less saltwater intrusion from the Delta and  soil salinity from crop irrigation has been eliminated.

every turnout has weather and moisture sensor technology that allows growers to make informed scheduling decisions to maximize irrigation efficiency.

The 58-acre reservoir employs seven vertical turbine pumps with 23,500 gallons per minute capacity. There are 78 points of service in Division 9 served from 19 miles of PVC pipe that is primarily 24 inches in diameter.

The water is delivered with 60 PSI pressure to allow farmers to deliver water to trees and vines using a drip irrigation system.` The water rates are around $45 an acre foot based on the assumption of 36 inches of water being used annually.

Rietkerk explained the pressurized concept was developed in 2008 by SSJID chief engineer Sam Bologna and construction was completed on time.   

To contact Glenn Kahl, email