The 2022 South San Joaquin Irrigation District irrigation season is set to start two weeks earlier than normal, with a date of March 2 slated as the start date.
The recent SSJID board decision reflects dry conditions impacting some orchards as well as the need for Turlock Irrigation District to complete work this month on the hydroelectric plant at Woodward Reservoir.
Several almond growers in the Ripon and Manteca area have started using sprinklers supplied with well water to moisten soil after January turned into a dry month for precipitation.
The outlook for 2022 looks relatively promising for SSJID even though the drought is continuing.
SSJID General Manager Peter Rietkerk noted projections made by the Department of Water Resources and the California-Nevada river forecast places a 90 percent probability that there will be 600,000 acre feet of runoff on the Stanislaus River watershed.
That would fulfill the front-of-the-line annual adjusted water rights SSJID and Oakdale Irrigation District share equally.
Continuing dry conditions could skew the water numbers less in favor of SSJID while several solid storms would do the opposite and lead to the availability of water to satisfy Bureau of Reclamation contracts with other agencies based on inflow into the 2.4 million acre foot New Melones Reservoir.
Precipitation recorded at Beardsley — one of three reservoirs SSJID operates with OID through the Tri-Dam Project — was at 22 inches on Jan. 31 That is 114 percent of normal for the date.
That is significantly better than in 2020 when the rainfall on Jan. 31 was 5.8 inches or 60 percent of normal. The average water year that ends Sept. 30 sees 38 inches of precipitation at Beardsley.
New Melones Reservoir — the linchpin of storage on the Stanislaus watershed that SSJID depends on to supply water for agriculture as well as to the cities of Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy — was at 70 percent of normal for Feb. 10. That translates into the 2.4-million acre foot reservoir being 41 percent full.