After an unexpected influx of wet weather put a stop to what would have been an early irrigation period for Turlock Irrigation District water customers in January, dry conditions as of late have growers wondering when the water will come.
TID had been prepared to enter into an early irrigation period starting on or around Jan. 18, but a welcomed rush of rain - two inches over the course of five days - quickly put a stop to the plan. Water Distribution Department Manager Mike Kavarian said that, at the time of the Jan. 9 Board of Directors meeting, "all of the conditions were right" for an early irrigation period, since the Tuolumne River Watershed has accumulated just 7.76 inches of precipitation since September and .72 inches total in the month of January.
At the Tuesday, Feb. 6 TID board meeting, the future forecast for the next 10 to 12 days did not show signs of rain, said Kavarian, but it's now too close to the start of the regular irrigation season, which he anticipates to begin the first week of March if dry conditions continue, to implement an early irrigation season.
"We're getting to a point where it's really too late to have an early irrigation season," said Kavarian. "What we will do is what we did back in '14, '15, '16 - make the canals available to customers like we've done in the past."
In lieu of an early irrigation period, TID crews are working hard to prepare area canals for service, when Kavarian anticipates growers to begin calling in for water.
"We haven't had too many phone calls or to many wanting to irrigate right now, but we have received some phone calls - about half a dozen - wondering when we're going to start, so we've just told people that if they'd like to use the canals they can."
In previous dry years, like 2014 and 2015, the regular irrigation seasons began around March 7 or 8, said Kavarian. He anticipates the same this year, and gave a tentative start date of Thursday, March 7 for the 2018 irrigation season.
"We'll make the canals available and work with people the best we can, but right now is not a good time to have an early irrigation," said Kavarian. "It's been relatively quiet, but I expect people to start getting antsy this week."