Mod­el­ing shows SSJID likely will be OK with wa­ter for 2018

Manteca Bulletin - - Front Page - By DEN­NIS WY­ATT

The first wa­ter to ir­ri­gate South County or­chards and farm­lands will likely start flow­ing through South San Joaquin Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict canals be­tween Feb. 26 and March 5.

The SSJID board au­tho- rized Chair­man Dale Kuil to make the call af­ter con­sult­ing with staff on the progress of crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture work in­clud­ing in takes at Wood-

ward Reser­voir for the treat­ment plant sup­ply­ing wa­ter to Man­teca, Lathrop, and Tracy. The SSJID stressed Wed­nes­day that no def­i­nite de­ci­sion on the start of ir­ri­ga­tion has been made.

The board Tues­day was up­dated on the wa­ter out­look for the 2018 sea­son. Based on cur­rent con­di­tions on the Tri-Dam Project on the Stanis­laus River wa­ter­shed there is a pro­jected 275,000 acre feet of wa­ter that will come from the ex­ist­ing snow­pack as it melts. Half of that wa­ter will go to Oak­dale Ir­ri­ga­tion Dis­trict, SSJID’s Tri-Dam part­ner.

That wa­ter cou­pled with what is left in the con­ser­va­tion ac­count at New Melones Reser­voir af­ter the Bu­reau of Recla­ma­tion re­sponded to dry con­di­tions in Jan­uary and stopped flood con­trol re­leases should pro­vide the dis­trict with up­wards of 240,000 acre feet of wa­ter.

The dis­trict last year used 200,000 acre feet of wa­ter thanks to con­ser­va­tion ef­forts by both farm­ers and the three cities. If use hap­pens to go back to 2013 lev­els by agri­cul­tural, mu­nic­i­pal users, or both the dis­trict could find it­self in a pre­car­i­ous sit­u­a­tion this year. SSJID in 2013 used 239,000 acre feet of wa­ter.

On Wed­nes­day, SSJID Gen­eral Man­ager Peter Ri­etk­erk said the dis­trict is fairly con­fi­dent they will be able to meet all wa­ter needs this year with­out an is­sue based on wise wa­ter use pat­terns for the past three years.

Ri­etk­erk noted it al­ways makes sense to use wa­ter wisely given Cal­i­for­nia’s un­pre­dictable hy­drol­ogy. He noted the jury is still out as to whether Cal­i­for­nia is slip­ping into an­other drought year. The lat­est drought mon­i­tor in­for­ma­tion com­piled by the US Depart­ment of Agri­cul­ture rates 81.73 per­cent of the state as ab­nor­mally dry, 45.6 per­cent of the state in mod­er­ate drought, and 6.39 per­cent of the state — Los An­ge­les, Ven­tura, Santa Bar­bara, and part of Orange coun­ties — in se­vere drought.

Up­dated Na­tional Weather Ser­vice mod­els in­di­cate there is a 90 per­cent pos­si­bil­ity that the bal­ance of win­ter and early spring will re­sult in a snow­pack on the Stanis­laus River wa­ter­shed that will pro­duce a runoff of 410,000 acre feet into New Melones Reser­voir. SSJID and OID are en­ti­tled to the first 600,000 acre feet of snow­pack runoff each year that they split in half.

As­sum­ing the NWS fore­cast is cor­rect, SSJID would have 205,000 acre feet of runoff this year mean­ing they could meet all of their needs with­out dip­ping into the con­ser­va­tion ac­count that has 103,000 acre feet left in it or 51,500 acre feet for each dis­trict.

“Based on hy­drol­ogy we are ex­pect­ing the runoff to come in at be­tween 275,000 and 410,000 acre feet this year,” Ri­etk­erk noted.

That means even of if the worst case sce­nario hap­pens and it is on the low end, the wa­ter con­ser­va­tion ac­count would al­low the dis­trict to get by this year based on 2017 us­age.

The cur­rent in­creased flow in the Stanis­laus is to meet wa­ter flow re­quire­ments on the San Joaquin River at Ver­nalis south of Man­teca.

Ri­etk­erk ex­pects the in­take work at Wood­ward Reser­voir to be done in time to al­low the wa­ter sea­son start call to be made by Kuil the week of Feb. 26.

The work on the in­takes has been needed for a num­ber of years but the dis­trict opted not to do it dur­ing the drought as it would have re­quired re­duc­ing stor­age level caus­ing the loss of wa­ter that might have been needed for ir­ri­ga­tion or mu­nic­i­pal uses.

The fickle Cal­i­for­nia hy­drol­ogy un­der­scores how crit­i­cal the SSJID be­ing es­tab­lished 109 years ago and its de­ci­sions to build reser­voirs in con­junc­tion with OID has been to the abil­ity to farm as well as ur­ban­ize the South County.

With­out a steady wa­ter sup­ply that reser­voirs and se­cured wa­ter rights pro­vide it is highly un­likely there would be sig­nif­i­cant or­chards or vine­yards in the re­gion.

Or­chards typ­i­cally take three or so years to es­tab­lish and vine­yards longer. Un­like farm­ing row crops that could go fal­low in a drought, if enough wa­ter is not sup­plied dur­ing a dry year trees and vines die off.

Some farm­ers in the western end of the dis­trict around Man­teca and Ripon where the soil has sandy loam and doesn’t hold as much mois­ture have been con­cerned about hav­ing wa­ter avail­able af­ter the al­mond blos­soms set. To con­tact Den­nis Wy­att, email dwy­att@ man­te­cab­ul­letin.com

DEN­NIS WY­ATT/ The Bul­letin

Al­mond blos­soms frame the SSJID of­fice on East High­way 20 east of Man­teca on Wed­nes­day.

OUT­LOOK Wa­ter is­sues

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