BY CRAIG W. ANDERSON
It was such a momentous event that deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Agriculture Kathleen Merrigan was on hand to announce a $1 million federal grant to help with the construction of the Division 9 Irrigation Enhancement Project being installed by the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to provide water to farmland south of Manteca/west of Ripon.
South San Joaquin Irrigation District (SSJID) board member Dave Kamper said the system will "allow us to get water to the crops when it's needed. It's something of a new concept."
SSJID worked on the project's engineering phase for three years and had signed on 100 percent of its growers in the Division 9 area who'd learned they would be able to have water for their crops as needed via a computer program.
The district has a standing water use allocation of 300,000 acre feet annually with the amount controlled by how wet the weather is in the valley during the winter and spring.
Farmers taking to technology
"The farmers seem tuned in to the technology," she added. "We like to see new things being tried. This project will also help address salt issues." Salinity has been an issue for years in the district and the project should reduce groundwater usage and decrease the need for flood irrigation for Division 9 farmers.
On the whole, Patterson said news about the project indicates, "So far, so good. Everyone's getting at least 50 psi through their systems."
The district's existing surface water supply configuration will provide the irrigation water. Currently, the system is distributing water to Division 9 customers via gravity flow. The new procedure will direct Division 9 inflow to the project's eastern storage basin where pumps will direct water into the proposed pressure system as needed.
The system will also divert irrigation runoff into the two seven acre reservoirs for upcoming irrigation. The reservoirs have automated control and metering technology that measures water use precisely which should reduce water costs to farmers as they won't need to pump groundwater which will provide more flexibility and efficiency delivering water.
Water will be moved to Division 9 users through 19 miles of pressurized pipeline. The pressure system would be used for irrigation during the irrigation season, enabling sprinklers and drip irrigation customers to irrigate on a more flexible and reliable schedule.
3,800 acres will receive water from the technologically advanced system and SSJID general manager Jeff Shields said the project "will reduce water use dramatically – by 50 percent" and he hopes it will create a precedent for other projects within the district's service area.