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Irrigation Season Ends Today
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Today, Wednesday, Oct. 16 marks the official end of the irrigation season for the South San Joaquin Irrigation District.

“They will have gotten their last drop of water by that day, or on that day,” said SSJID General Manager Jeff Shields of water customers. “We will literally shut the system off and water stops flowing at that point.

“Then it takes a couple of days to drain out.”

Water levels in the SSJID canals will start dropping off over the next few days and though there are no major projects planned for the off season, Shields said the district employees will stay busy.

“Over the years we have had different levels of aggressiveness of what we do, attacking maintenance projects,” he said of the off season work.

This year, after completing a pressurized demonstration project on about 10 percent of the system, Shields said the SSJID board approved a study to look at pressurizing the entire system. That will be done in part during the off season and will account for a major expenditure. Shields said the district was aggressive over the last few years doing maintenance, so there are no ‘big ticket’ items that need to be done this winter.

“We don’t want to put a lot of money into maintenance and repair of a flood system we might not use in the future,” Shields explained, adding that the pressurized system is in use in 3800 acres and early indications are it is better for farmers and better for the district, both in terms of finances and water delivery.

“Farmers had a very successful year this year and we are comfortable with how it operates,” Shields said. “Now we are going to look at how to do the whole system, is it technically feasible?”

It will be about a nine-month process to complete the study, with a recommendation then anticipated for the board to determine whether or not to move forward with pressurizing the entire SSJID system.

“Most of our system is in pretty good shape so we can afford to delay some projects while we study if we’re going to change our whole system over,” he said.

The pressurized system allows easier access to water for farmers, better tracking of deliveries, high tech delivery and even provides a measure of the moisture in the ground.

Division 9, the area west of Ripon and south of Manteca, in the south end of the system, was the demonstration area for the pressurized system and Shields said it cost $14 million to convert that division over. Part of the study will provide cost estimates of how much it will cost to make the changeover district-wide.

“Two companies are involved,” Shields explained. “Stantec is doing the technology design and Davis Engineering is looking to see how much water we can save, and can we have long-term water savings.”

While the study is being done and water is not flowing in the canals, crews will go in and do minor repairs, fixing broken pipes, clearing debris from the system and other routine maintenance.