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SSJID starting irrigation season March 19
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• TODAY: Mainly cloudy with a little rain
• THURSDAY: Rain returning Thursday night
• FRIDAY: Breezy with rain
• SATURDAY: Showers tapering off late morning

Water could start running through South San Joaquin Irrigation District ditches to South County farmers on March 19.

The SSJID board Tuesday picked March 19 to start the 2010 irrigation season. Changes in the weather could alter that start date. If it continues to rain the start will be postponed.

“We’re definitely in good shape,” SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields said of the district’s water supply.

Unimpaired snowmelt runoff based on the Feb. 1 snow survey by the California Department of Water Resources on the Stanislaus River Basin was at 93 percent of normal after three drought years.

Storage at New Melones Reservoir at the end of January was at 88 percent of normal and 50 percent of capacity.

The SSJID provides water for 60,000 acres of farmland in Manteca, Ripon and Escalon.

Almonds are the biggest crops with 33,000 acres followed by alfalfa at 6,000, grapes at 6,000, pasture at 5,200, walnuts at 2,400, and peaches at 1,800.