After an irrigation allotment as low as 18 inches was proposed by Turlock Irrigation District staff last month, farmers are in luck as new technology could allow the water agency to increase the cap.
During their last meeting on Feb. 22, TID’s Board of Directors heard from water distribution department manager Mike Kavarian that, following what is expected to be a third-straight year of drought conditions, an 18- to 24-inch irrigation allotment would be proposed, with a 182-day irrigation season from April 7 to Oct. 25.
TID’s lowest irrigation allotment came during similar dry conditions in 2014 and allowed farmers just 18 inches of water.
This week, however, Assistant General Manager of Water Resources Tou Her told the board that brand new TID tech will help improve upon previously-proposed irrigation numbers. TID’s Lower System Analysis Model was completed last week, allowing the organization to track every drop of water as it travels from the Don Pedro Reservoir and onto local farms.
“The hydrology hasn’t changed much…but you’ll see that we’re going to be proposing some changes to the water availability,” Her said. “...We’ve completed very recently a model that analyzes our system and is literally just off the press. It’s a very comprehensive and sophisticated model, it’s accurate and we have a high level of confidence in utilizing it.”
The model is used to calculate water availability, monitoring TID’s lower system and taking into account all of the different variables which impact water delivery: seepage, percolation, pump resources and more. Different operational and policy decisions can be entered into the Lower System Analysis Model, allowing TID to determine what water supply requirements are necessary in a variety of scenarios.
The comprehensive model is reflective of multiple investments TID has made into its water delivery system, and the data has shown there is more on-farm water available for growers this year than what was originally proposed.
With the new data, Kavarian on Tuesday proposed an irrigation season that not only provides more water, but is a week longer as well. The newly-proposed irrigation season would allow 24 inches to 28 inches of available water and run for 189 days, April 7 through Oct. 12.
In addition, TID is also introducing a Drought Transfer Pilot Program this year which would allow growers to transfer a portion or all available water on parcels they own or rent to another grower. This new program would only be implemented during dry years, when there is less than 36 inches of available water.
The TID Board of Directors will consider approval of the upcoming irrigation season at their March 22 meeting.