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SSJID is pondering Division 9 hike
Water flows into a SSJID canal - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

Water costs for farmers in the Turlock and Modesto irrigation districts are going up in 2015.

That’s not the case in South San Joaquin Irrigation District with the exception of Division 9 south of Manteca and west of Ripon that is benefiting from a pressurized water delivery system.

Turlock Irrigation District — the largest agency delivering water to farmers in the Northern San Joaquin Valley — last week increased their acre foot water rate charges.

TID, along with Modesto Irrigation District, has separate rates for normal or wet years and another for dry years.  SSJID only has one rate — $11 an acre foot.

The TID normal and wet year rate jumped from $8.25 per acre foot to $17.50. The dry year rate went from $15.50 per acre foot to $36.50. MID is looking at bumping their normal year per acre foot charge to $13.

If MID puts in place the hike to $13 it will mean SSJID would have the lowest water charge in the in the San Joaquin Valley if not the state when it comes to delivering water to farmers.

The SSJID is preparing, though, to readjust Division 9 rates that could go as high as $54 an acre foot to make sure the self-contained system collects enough money to pay for its maintenance and operation.

And while that sounds steep, SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields noted with pressurized deliver system farmers no longer have to pay for diesel or electricity to power pumps or operate water wells where the cost for electricity for water brought to the surface far exceeds an acre foot of water far exceeds $54 per acre foot. The pressurized system also means farmers are using significantly less water while at the same time increasing yields.

The SSJID has been able to keep water rates low by harnessing Tri Dam Project proceeds to pay for major capital improvement projects in excess of $40 million that in turn reduce maintenance and operation costs as well as water loss.

The district is also studying whether it is feasible to convert all or part of the rest of the district to a pressurized water system.