Rain Easing Minds of Growers

February 26, 2008 7:33:45 AM PST
The latest storms to hit the Valley helped ease the minds of some local growers concerned about another dry season.The Merced Irrigation District says it will take more than the recent rain to guarantee a full water supply.

Merced Irrigation District officials say the latest showers have made a measurable impact on the district's water supply.

It will take a significant snowpack to make up for last year's rainfall season, which made history as the driest ever recorded in Merced County.

The recent sound of falling rain has been music to the ears of local ranchers and farmers.

Louie Bandoni, Almond Grower: "Right now I feel pretty good, especially with this last round of rains."

Louie Bandoni is one of nearly two thousand Merced County Growers served by the Merced Irrigation District. Last year drought conditions forced the Merced Irrigation District to shut off its surface water supply to customers one month early in September. Bandoni says unlike many farmers, he managed to avoid dipping into his well. But he worried another dry season would force him to use the limited ground water supply.

Bandoni: "I was really nervous about this year if we were gonna have a drought situation."

Merced Irrigation District Officials say the latest storm was a definite step in the right direction.

"We received up to five inches of additional water content in our water shed, which is excellent news for us."

Deputy General Manager Ted Selb says the Merced Irrigation District is hoping to have a full irrigation season this year, but it won't make that decision until next month when the latest snowpack survey is complete. The February snowmelt results were encouraging, but Selb says the district's stored water at Lake McClure is still below average.

Selb: "Lake McClure is still only about 30 percent of capacity. So that's kind of working against us."

So for now local growers are keeping an eye on the sky and hoping the wet weather will stick around.

Bandoni: "I'm just really glad that we're having the rains that we've had and hopefully we'll get some more."

Selb says he'll make a presentation to the Merced Irrigation District board on March 18th that includes information about the latest snowpack survey.

Then the board will set the dates for the irrigation season.


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