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SSJID board may declare water emergency due to record dry winter
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A water emergency could be declared Tuesday by the South San Joaquin Irrigation District board.

The spat of storms in the past month have proved to be too little, too late to break the back of one of the driest winters ever recorded in the Sierra. Even with four wet days forecast this week, the SSJID is expected to only have 80 percent of the water it needs to meet irrigation demands for the rest of the year. Barring a series of spring snow storms pushing biblical proportions, the district will be some 42,000 acre feet of water short.

The agreement the district has with the three cities that obtain surface water from the SSJID is that whatever cutback on water deliveries irrigation customers must take the same percentage reduction will be applied to municipal deliveries. Manteca along with Lathrop and Tracy take water from the SSJID operated Nick DeGroot Surface Water Treatment Plant near the base of Woodward Reservoir.

Since early February when the SSJID board first started addressing 2012 irrigation season, the water outlook from the Sierra snowpack has improved to some extent but not nearly enough. That is prompting staff to recommend that the board consider declaring a water emergency for the 2012 irrigation season when they meet Tuesday at 9 a.m. at the district office, 11011 East Highway 120.

If the board makes such a declaration they are expected to stick with the April 1 date they tentatively set last month for the start of the irrigation season. If Mother Nature provides rain this week in the South County it would be almost enough to tide vineyards and orchards over until the first irrigation run.

The board also has discussed other measures such as reducing the elevation of Woodward Reservoir from 210 to 205 feet to reduce the surface area and therefore cut down on the water loss from evaporation. Among the strategies to stretch water supplies is the potential implementation of extended rotation schedules for irrigation runs.

By declaring a water emergency, the board can also allocate water according to the type of crop.