Irrigation Information

Links to facts, tips, irrigation management, and information on farming in a drought to help our growers be some of the most productive farmers in the world.

TID Irrigation Facts

  • Irrigation service area: 307 square miles
  • Irrigated acreage: 145,559 acres*
  • Number of parcels: 7,500*
  • Number of growers: 4,904*
  • TID canals and laterals: 250 miles (90 percent concrete lined)
  • Irrigation service boundary: The Sierra foothills on the east, the San Joaquin River to the west, the Tuolumne River to the north, and the Merced River to the south
  • Predominant crops: Alfalfa, almonds, beans, corn, grain, grapes, oats, peaches, sweet potatoes and walnuts

*These figures fluctuate slightly from season to season.

California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS)

The California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS), a standardized accounting for water consumed through evapotranspiration by the soil and plants, is designed to help growers develop efficient water budgets and irrigation strategies by providing scheduling information matching the amount of water applied to a crop with needs of the plant. (Evapotranspiration is the movement of water into the air by changing into a gas from the ground or from plants.)

The California Irrigation Management Information System (CIMIS) is a network of over 145 automated weather stations managed by the California Department of Water Resources. Developed in 1982 by the DWR and the University of California, Davis it was designed to assist irrigators in managing their water resources more efficiently to save water, energy, and money.

The CIMIS stations in this area are:

  • #206 Denair
  • #148 Merced
  • #161 Patterson
  • #71 Modesto

For more information about how to use CIMIS, visit the Department of Water Resources CIMIS website.

The Fresno State Center for Irrigation Technology hosts the WateRight website at, providing free irrigation scheduling programs and tutorials that can be used to develop irrigation schedules using CIMIS data. Additionally, the CIMIS site provides links to other irrigation scheduling programs (some of which must be purchased) and resources.

For more information about these programs, please call (209) 883-8386.

Water Measurement


Since 2013 TID has deployed several different types of water metering devices in response to the Water Conservation Act of 2009, also known as SBx7-7. In simple terms, this law requires all agricultural water suppliers serving more than 25,000 acres to measure customers within a specific volumetric accuracy range.

The law defines the accuracy requirements based on the type of device measuring a parcel’s flow. The only way to measure by volume per the State’s requirements was to make a significant investment in new metering equipment and modify the way our customers order water. Many of you have probably noticed the requirement to order on every sidegate opened. This is directly related to SBx7-7. The District has also modified the way it tracks and accounts for water in an effort to comply.

Prior to deploying these meters, TID’s delivery/measurement facilities were adequate based on the historical allotment system. The new volumetric billing and accuracy requirements of the law meant we could no longer use the allotment system or report use from historical measurements. This triggered a Corrective Action Plan process specified by the California Department of Water Resources (DWR). The implementation of this Plan resulted in the meters you see in our system today. TID’s goal is to rate every active parcel/sidegate combination receiving water in an effort to comply with SBx7-7. Details of the original Corrective Action Plan from 2012 are outlined in Appendix F of TID’s Agricultural Water Management Plan available here.

Some plan specifics have changed over time but the overall accuracy requirements of the law still applies. Updating of the current plan is scheduled for completion in 2020.

Volumetric Accuracy vs. Flow Accuracy

There is a very important distinction between volumetric accuracy and flow accuracy as it applies to a gravity system such as ours. On gravity deliveries, it is virtually impossible for the flow delivered through a standard sidegate to remain exactly the same throughout an entire irrigation. This ever-changing flow can be created by many variables/changes in conditions. The list below does not show all of the conditions affecting flow but it does describe the most common variables for every gravity/surface water delivery in our system.

These items are normally outside of TID’s control because they exist on private property or are not within our right-of-way

  • Moving from one check to another on your property
  • Moving closer to or farther away from the canal within your pipeline or ditch
  • Different elevations of checks within your parcel…sometimes a 1” difference in ground elevation causes flow variability
  • Changing conditions of your property such as floating for harvest, pre-irrigation on ripped ground, heavy weeds, mature crops etc.
  • Different stem heights or valve sizes of your own field valves/gates
  • Not opening the same number of valves/gates in each of your checks
  • The existence of structure boxes, road siphons, debris etc. within the section of line you use while irrigating
  • Utilizing any kind of pump that discharges directly into your pipe/ditch

These items are normally within TID’s control because they are within our canal right-of-way

  • Any water elevation change within our canal
  • Any change in stem opening at the canal sidegate
  • A plugged grate or debris in front of your sidegate

How does this variability affect flow accuracy and volumetric accuracy?

The variability requires us to take multiple measurements during different periods of your irrigation so we can average all of the flows together and compute a single average flow rating for your parcel/sidegate combination. The example in this graph illustrates this variability. The graph shows an entire irrigation on a single parcel measured by a Rubicon FlumeMeter®. The flow steps you see on the graph (yellow line) are from the irrigator switching checks on their parcel and the steps up and down illustrate how changing conditions on a parcel can affect flow delivered at the canal. This is why it’s necessary to take multiple readings on the same parcel to compute an accurate flow. After all, accurate volumetric calibrations are the purpose of the program.

Meter Types and Measurement Strategy

These constantly changing conditions coupled with delivering large gravity flood heads along with smaller micro/drip heads means we need to use the appropriate meter for a particular delivery type. Depending on the delivery, we have five types of meters in the following quantities:

  • Rubicon SlipMeters™ – 121 permanent sites
  • Rubicon FlumeMeters™ – 78 meters, 57 are mobile & 21 are permanent
  • Hach® Velocity Meters – 8 hand-held mobile meters
  • SonTek-IQ® Series Meters – 4 permanent & 1 hand-held mobile
  • 11 permanent magnetic meters mounted on booster pump systems
  • Fuji Transit Time Meters – 12 mobile meters for pumped/booster deliveries
  • FlowLine™ down looker – 2 in ID structures

With over 1,400 active sidegates in our system, installing permanent flowmeters at each site would be extremely expensive resulting in much higher water rates for our growers. For that reason, we only installed permanent meters on sidegates serving more than 250 acres with a few exceptions depending on location and canal operations. The remaining sidegates would be measured by mobile Rubicon FlumeMeters™, Hach® velocity meters, Fuji transit time meters, SonTek-IQ® Series Meters, Seametrics or McCrometer mag meters and FlowLine™ down-lookers. We are able to have permanent real time measurement data now on more than 74,000 acres after installing meters in only 155 locations. The remaining 75,000 acres would be measured by the other mobile meters. Utilizing this strategy, we are able to volumetrically measure over 1,400 sidegates serving more than 147,000 acres by purchasing only 236 meters overall.

Rubicon SlipMeter™

The Rubicon SlipMeter™ is a fully automated gate that can be operated in flow mode or gate position mode. Flow mode allows the gate to automatically open or close itself to deliver an ordered flow as long as there is enough water in the canal and the pipeline/ditch capacity will allow it. When the Rubicon SlipMeter™ is in gate position mode it operates just like a standard sidegate by opening to a requested height in inches. Data is sent back to TID in real time allowing WDOs and water managers to see what is happening in the field almost instantly from their PCs or mobile tablets. Click here to see a sample of the data.

Customers served by permanent meters have the ability to see their actual flow while they irrigate by logging into their TID online water account. Contact the Irrigation Call Center at 883-8456 for details on how to find your flow. You can also learn how to operate Rubicon SlipMeters™ by contacting your WDO or by watching our short how-to-videos by clicking here.

Rubicon FlumeMeter™ Rotations

Rubicon FlumeMeters™ are rotated from gate to gate and require no interaction from the customer. They are simply just a meter sending flow and canal elevation back to TID in real time. Once all active parcels being served by a specific sidegate are measured, the meter will be moved to a different site and the process will be repeated. By using this rotation method, we will be able to measure over 32,000 acres with only 57 mobile Rubicon FlumeMeters™.

Click here to see a Rubicon FlumeMeter™ installed on a sidegate.

Sprinkler Systems and Pumps

In most cases, irrigators utilizing any type of drip, micro or solid-set sprinkler irrigation systems will be measured by portable hand-held meters while some will be rated by Rubicon SlipMeters™ and Rubicon FlumeMeters™. When this project was first developed, the District planned to install magnetic meters along with full scada/radio equipment at all 400 known systems within TID. To verify cost and feasibility, we performed an inventory of every system and installed measuring equipment at ten sites. The inventory found more than 500 systems and the test sites verified it would cost us more than $4,000,000 to install meters & scada District wide. The inventory also found that most systems had two sources of water. One was TID canal water & the other was groundwater. After taking all of this into consideration, it didn’t make sense to spend over $4,000,000 while having the potential of billing a customer for their own pumped groundwater.

Fuji Transit Time Meter

The Fuji transit time meter was chosen as the alternative measurement device for pumped deliveries. They are extremely accurate and have a laboratory certified accuracy of ±1.0 percent. Fuji meters are easy to use and most ratings can be completed from start to finish in 15 minutes. Measurements are performed by trained WDOs at a significant savings when compared to the original plan of installing meters and scada/communications equipment at over 500 locations. We can measure virtually every system in the District with only four of these meters over a period spanning two seasons.

Click here to see a Fuji Transit Meter in use.

Other Forms of Flood Measurement

On pipelines and ditches not receiving a Rubicon FlumeMeter™ or a Rubicon SlipMeter™, TID will use a portable hand-held meter manufactured  by Hach® (pronounced Hawk) to rate their flows. Trained members of our Water Distribution Department will measure these deliveries by placing the meter sensor inside a vent pipe or within an open ditch during multiple irrigations to determine an accurate average flow. Click here for a photo of a Hach® Meter.

SonTek-IQ® Series Meters will be permanently installed inside designated pipelines and open ditches. This type of permanent meter will be less obvious to irrigators because the hardware is not visible at a sidegate. SonTek-IQ® Series Meters will be installed in a location upstream of all field valves so all parcels can be measured. If irrigators notice a pole with a communications antenna installed near a pipeline or ditch, one of these permanent SonTek-IQ® Series Meters is likely being used. Click here to see a photo of an installed SonTek-IQ® Series Meter.


Prior to the start of the 2019 irrigation season, information will be provided to all active parcels comparing their historical volumetric usage with their new volumetric usage. This information will also include a comparison in dollars to help you understand how this new flow change can potentially affect your operations. Some flows will decrease, some will increase and others will see no change at all.

For additional information about water billing, visit TID’s Water Rates page or call the District’s Irrigation Department at (209) 883-8356.

Agricultural Discharges

Regulations Affecting Individual Growers

While TID follows and complies with regulations affecting TID as an irrigation water supplier, some state, federal and local regulations require individual growers to comply in a variety of ways.

Most of the more well-known state regulations affecting individual growers are administered by The Central Valley Regional Water Quality Board (Regional Board). The Regional Board is responsible for establishing water quality regulations for all types of discharges, especially ag discharges into local waterways.

Salt and Nitrate Control Programs

Stemming from the Central Valley Salinity Alternatives for Long-Term Sustainability (CV-SALTS) process that began in 2006, a 2019 Regional Board program to permit and regulate salt and nitrate levels of individual dischargers in the Central Valley affects TID irrigation customers who are permitted by the Regional Board for salt or nitrate. There is an added level of regulatory compliance that comes with joining a new local stakeholder group, also known as a Management Zone (for the nitrate regulation) or participating in a study (for the salts regulation).The Valley Water Collaborative (VWC) is a non-profit organization based in Modesto which assists agriculture, cities and industries in complying with the Nitrate Control Program. The VWC program offers free domestic well testing for residences in the Modesto and Turlock groundwater basins and bottled water delivery or water treatment systems for eligible program applicants. Dischargers interested in joining the VWC to comply with the regulation should inquire or apply online at the Valley Water Collaborative website.

Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program

The Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program (previously known as the Ag Waiver) requires any grower who discharges water from their property to comply with the conditions of the program. This can be accomplished by either joining a coalition group or individually monitoring the discharges from their property and reporting the results to the Regional Board. Many growers have chosen to join a coalition group to obtain coverage under the law.

The East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition is the local group who represents growers under the Irrigated Lands Regulatory Program in the TID service area. The coalition performs monitoring and reporting for its members. For more information, visit the East San Joaquin Water Quality Coalition website.

Dairy Waste Discharge Requirements

In 2007 the Regional Board adopted the Waste Discharge Requirements General Order for Existing Milk Cow Dairies which places specific requirements on dairies in the Central Valley. If you operate a dairy within TID and are in need of irrigation water quality or other information needed to comply with the General Order, please contact our Water Distribution Department at (209) 883-8356. Additional documents related to confined animal facilities including dairies can be found on the Regional Board’s Confined Animal Facilities web page.

Drought Resources

Contact Us

TID Water Call Center

Open 7 days a week during irrigation season from 7  a.m. to 5 p.m.

(209) 883-8456