South San Joaquin Irrigation District has saved enough water through aggressive conservation during the past two years to meet the needs of 55,000 people.
And it’s all thanks to Tri-Dam receipts underwriting water conservation programs involving more intense on farm management procedures as well as spending $14 million on a state-of-the-art forced irrigation delivery system. It’s the same money source that will be used by the district in its plan to lower retail power rates by 15 percent.
SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields noted the district has saved 11,000 acre feet of water in 2010 and 2011 through the conservation measures. An acre foot is enough to supply the needs of a typical five-member family for a year.
SSJID along with Oakdale Irrigation District have the oldest water rights on the Stanislaus River watershed having established them over a century ago. The two districts built Melones Dam in 1926.
The Bureau of Reclamation built the 2.4 million acre-foot capacity New Melones Reservoir at the site of the original Melones Reservoir. Part of the agreement for the two districts giving up the dam site was to assure them of a set amount of water – 280,000 acre feet in a typical year – based on their historic superior water rights on the Stanislaus River.
The SSJID has been aggressively pursuing water conservation measures for the past decade included upgrading canals to reduce seepage. As a result, they have freed up more water that can be used elsewhere including in district cities as well as outside the district. SSJID has been selling East Stockton Water District water for a number of years.
Almonds are the biggest irrigated crop in the SSJID service territory with 33,000 acres followed by alfalfa at 6,000, grapes at 6,000, and pasture at 5,200, walnuts at 2,400 and peaches at 1,800. The rest is split between a diversity of crops ranging from corn to melons.