TURLOCK — Farmers in the Turlock Irrigation District got a small boost Tuesday in the amount of water available this year.
The district board voted 3-2 to raise the cap to 34 vertical inches per acre, up from the 30 inches approved in February amid concern about low rainfall and snowpack numbers.
The level still is much less than the 48 inches per acre four acre-feet that farmers typically can get when water is adequate.
Board member Joe Alamo, who proposed the change, said it especially will help growers of feed crops in soil that drains quickly. He also noted that dry, windy weather this spring has drawn moisture from crops.
"It's still the third-lowest allowance on record since Don Pedro was built," Alamo said, referring to the Tuolumne River reservoir completed in 1971.
Board members Rob Santos and Ron Macedo supported the increase. Charles Fernandes and Michael Frantz were opposed.
Frantz said staying at 30 inches would help the district prepare for a possible third straight dry year in 2014. He is especially concerned about having at least 24 inches next year for orchard crops.
"We are in a critically dry year," Frantz said. "It's the second year in a row of substantially below-average rainfall, and I am very cautious."
The resolution raising the cap also directs the staff to conserve water. This includes watching for theft and carefully managing flows at the canal ends, where the supply spills into other waterways.
The TID, the largest irrigation district in the Northern San Joaquin Valley, serves an area from south Modesto to northern Merced County and west to the San Joaquin River.