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MID launching conservative start to irrigation season

While recent storms and a thicker snowpack brought optimism to farmers and water managers, the Merced Irrigation District wants to start its surface irrigation season conservatively.

The MID board agreed Tuesday to begin the irrigation season Monday — about one week early — and have it run until Sept. 30. This includes a half acre-foot curtailment.

Growers served by MID usually receive 3 acre feet of water per acre of their land. This year they will receive 2.5 acre feet of water per acre they own. El Nido customers will receive 1.25 acre feet. One acre foot, according to U.S. consumption rates, is enough to meet the industrial and municipal needs of four people for a year.

Because regular MID customers aren’t receiving their full allotment of water, none will be sold to land in the district’s “sphere of influence.” These are areas just outside the periphery of the district, such as Planada, Le Grand and south of El Nido.

Merced grower Joe Scoto said he was fine with the board’s decision about the season, “As long as we get our water before they sell out of district.”

Clay Skinner, another Merced grower, said he was glad MID moved the season up one week: “We need to irrigate now.”

Farmers and growers encompassing about 110,000 acres in Merced County depend on surface water supplied by MID. They use it to irrigate their crops and conserve the ground water supply. A dry 2007 had MID shutting off the surface irrigation season early — and raised everyone’s concerns about the water supply.