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MID: Growers have more time to irrigate

Merced Irrigation District officials said late last week water allocations for growers would last at least two weeks longer than expected.

Earlier this month, MID officials urged growers to use their water allocations by mid-September. However, on Friday, officials said growers could count on using their allocations until Oct. 1.

“In the past couple of weeks, actual grower irrigation demand has diminished slightly from estimated demands, likely due to crop harvests and effective on-farm water management,” MID said in a news release. Irrigation water is measured per acre-foot, which is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre of land a foot deep, or about 325,900 gallons.

Based on current water storage and estimated demands, it appears that Lake McClure will not reach the minimum pool of 85,000 acre-feet until at least the end of September, “absent a significant increase in irrigation water demand that is not predicted at this time,” MID said.

Additionally, MID is making late-season drought adjustments to the 2014 Water Management Implementation Plan, with the goal of providing additional water supply reallocation flexibility to assist growers in need of end-of-season water supplies.

MID continues to monitor water storage at Lake McClure and downstream water demands, including grower demand for irrigation water and MID’s other downstream and through-system water commitments.

MID’s irrigation season will continue until Lake McClure water storage reaches 85,000 acre-feet.

Growers looking for updates on the 2014 Water Supply Implementation Plan, including temporary policy variances and allowances on grower-to-grower water supply reallocations, should go to the MID website.

Farmers were given the smallest water allocation this year that anyone with MID could remember, but it was still better than initially expected. Earlier this year, MID projected that each farmer would receive only about 6 inches of water per acre. However, MID cut a deal in April allowing growers to use an additional 30,000 acre-feet.

MID also raised the price of water for farmers from $20.25 to more than $100 per acre-foot, then lowered it to $75.

Officials said farmers can get daily updates on Lake McClure levels and other irrigation information at the MID website, at http://www.mercedid.com/.

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