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SSJID forced to spend $47K to help others in need of water
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South San Joaquin Irrigation District wants to be able to help farmers and urban users outside of its district boundaries if the opportunity arrives in 2010.

The SSJID will have to pay a price, though, for doing so.

Federal and state law requires that reviews be done to make sure water transfers don’t adversely impact the environment. That means $47,500 will have to be spent to hire a consultant to do a California Environmental Quality Act review as well as a National Environment Quality Act study. The cost will be split 50-50 with the Oakdale Irrigation District.

In the past such transfers have resulted in no significant environmental impact being discovered. It is expected to be the same for 2010. However, law still requires a report to be done.

Aggressive conservation efforts by SSJID ditch tenders and farmers this year freed up 30,000 acre feet of water to assist other regions hard hit by California’s third straight year of drought.

The SSJID board completed transactions that sent 4,000 acre feet to the City of Stockton for municipal water uses and 1,000 acre feet to the East Stockton Water District for agricultural purposes. That is in addition to 25,000 acre feet that was part of an emergency deal to the San Luis-Delta Mendota Water Agency that is helping keep thousands of acres of permanent crops alive in the water starved western side of the Northern San Joaquin Valley.

The water sold to San Luis-Delta was at $250 an acre foot and generated $6.25 million.

The City of Stockton paid $150 an acre foot to provide the SSJID with $600,000. The East Stockton Water District paid $20 an acre foot is bringing in $20,000.

The district is using the additional income to redouble its efforts to conserve water and improve delivery to district farmers.

An example of how they put such revenue for water sales to work can be found in the project now underway southwest of Manteca in district nine.

There are serious problems due to salinity that is caused by ground water being pumped with irrigation water to provide adequate supplies for crops. The need to supplement the surface water is based on the fact district nine is at the end of the system.

Salinity ultimately renders soil sterile.

The SSJID is putting in place a closed system. It reduces water waste through flooding and evaporation while also allowing farmers a way to control placement of water that they can also combine with liquid fertilizer.

Ultimately it means farmers will need less water to provide the same amount of yield from crops.

The district could opt to put in more closed systems throughout the South County further reducing water usage while at the same time protecting district farmers by assuring tight water times in the future won’t cripple them as it has in other areas of California.