Fresno Irrigation District Still Sinks 100

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Contributed photo of the canal in the Fresno Irrigation District.

In the middle of the 19e century, the water from the San Joaquin and Kings rivers allowed the desert to flourish.

In the summer heat, workers built canals that would shape the future of the region.

Today, the Fresno Irrigation District oversees the 680 miles of pipelines and canals that bring water from rivers to producers and cities.

The year 2020 marks the centenary of FID, which set out to bring water from the Kings River to eastern Fresno County and beyond.

Over the decades, the job has shifted from providing agricultural water to supplying cities like Fresno and Clovis, while other municipalities in Fresno County are looking to get started soon. And legislation to manage groundwater use has compelled the institution to stay at the forefront of conservation and reliability.

On the Kings River system, 28 member entities are fighting for the flow that descends from the Pine Flat Dam.

In 2019, the irrigation district provided the longest water pipe to farmers in its history. Nine months of delivery brought 618,424 acre-feet of water to customers in the district, according to the IDF annual report.

This year, a snowpack at 60% of the average means only three months of delivery to producers. But that water comes at the hottest time of the year, a critical time for growers who need to keep plants hydrated, according to Ryan Jacobsen, chairman of the IDF board of directors and chairman of the Fresno County Farm Bureau.

“Our farmers are able to use surface supplies, close their wells and recharge their groundwater,” Jacobsen said.

Almost 20% of irrigated agricultural land in Fresno County is within FID’s reach, he said.

The crops that drive the agricultural economy have changed over the years.

In 1980, water from the Kings River supplied over 76,000 acres of grapes, with cotton coming in second with 21,000 acres. In 1999, almonds took second place and in 2019 the walnut overtook grapes as the main crop drinking water from the Kings River.

But water has also served communities.

Fresno County Supervisor Sal Quintero credits IDF with maintaining supplies to southeast Fresno even as sprawl has shifted development north.

“The Irrigation District has had such a big impact on Southeast Fresno and its growth,” Quintero said. “It’s one of those agencies that you don’t pay attention to, but it had such an impact. “

The 2014 Law on Sustainable Groundwater Management has put pressure on water users who depend on wells and aquifers. This put pressure on the FID to provide even more water to cities from the river.

The North Kings Groundwater Sustainability Agency was created to work with FID to develop plans for sustainable growth, said Bill Stretch, district general manager.

Part of FID’s job is also to maintain replenished groundwater levels. Some 68,908 acre-feet of water went into ponds in 2019 to fill aquifers.

“Taking water during wet years and letting it restore aquifers means saving water for the inevitable dry years in Fresno,” Jacobsen said.

But as more and more water is drawn, those water tables continue to slide west, Stretch said.

Without adequate water sources, a study published in the Central California Business Review found that up to 20% of farmland – or 1 million acres – could be fallow.

Today, Fresno and Clovis take about 35% of the allowance throughout the year, according to Jacobsen.

The future could bring communities like Fowler and Malaga into the fold. Discussions have already started with Kerman, Biola and Pinedale. Sanger also began to become FID.

“We are working on a better arrangement and water supply agreements with them to help them be sustainable and allow them to grow in a smart way,” Stretch said.

The district begins at a narrow point near the Pine Flat Dam, stretching west to Kerman, north to the San Joaquin River and south to Easton, covering over 250,000 acres.

“One of the next challenges is aging infrastructure,” Stretch said. “There are a lot of old pipelines and a lot of old structures. “

Of the 360 ​​miles of pipelines, about 45% are 50 years old. About 0.3% are updated each year, according to their annual report.

The aim is to maintain the water supply from the springs.

“Our goal is, even with the implementation of SGMA, that no farmer has to fallow land and that they can continue to cultivate and that cities can continue to be vibrant,” Stretch said. .

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