The Modesto Bee
A two-month debate on irrigation water rates ended Friday with Merced County farmers showing major support for a dramatic fee hike.
Farmers voted 4,313 to 776 to increase water rates from $20.25 per acre-foot to $100.67 per acre-foot. Irrigation water is measured per acre-foot, which is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre of land a foot deep, about 325,900 gallons.
MID officials said increasing fees was necessary to help the district cover a projected $10.6 million budget shortfall. Drought-related financial troubles caused the district to look for ways to cover the deficit and meet its bond covenants. In a typical year, MID sells about 300,000 acre-feet of water. Three consecutive years of drought conditions left the district with less than 100,000 acre-feet of water for this growing season.
Farmers will receive just 6 inches of water per acre during this year’s shortened four-month season. Typically they receive more than 3 feet per acre over a seven-month season, authorities have said.