Skip to content Skip to footer

James Irrigation District

The James Irrigation District was formed in 1920. The District encompasses about 26,418 acres (41.3 square miles) of primarily agricultural land in central Fresno County, including the City of San Joaquin. The District generally extends from the James Main Canal and Fresno Slough Bypass on the east, to the Fresno Slough on the west and a line approximating Nebraska Avenue on the south. The District shares a common boundary with the Tranquillity Irrigation District on its western side.

The District is governed by a five-member Board of Directors elected at-large to staggered 4-year terms.

  • President: Riley Chaney
  • Vice-President: Micah Combs
  • Director: Robert Barcellos
  • Director: Cory Carvalho
  • Director: Robert Motte

Regular Board Meetings are held the second Tuesday of each month at 10:00 a.m. at the District Office.

Manager, Manny Amorelli, administers the District which has 15 full-time employees.

Major crops grown in the District include almonds, pistachios, grapes, onions, tomatoes, alfalfa, and cotton. Land is irrigated with the District using a variety of methods including drip, drip tape, sprinkler, micro sprinkler, and flood irrigation.

The District is unique as its location has provided the District with six sources of water

  • San Joaquin Riparian (Class 2)
  • San Joaquin Flood
  • Kings River Entitlement
  • Kings River Flood
  • CVP BOR Contract Water
  • Groundwater


James Irrigation District was formed in 1920, though its history traces back to the 19th century when Jefferson G. James established the 72,000-acre James Ranch and constructed a number of canals to irrigate the land originally deeded to him in 1855. James Ranch was later sold to the San Joaquin Valley Farmlands Company, which by 1918 was farming the land and taking significant steps to improve irrigation with a goal of subdividing the area and selling parcels to settlers.

James Irrigation District was established by a vote of the landowners in the region to facilitate the subdivision of the land and provide the new subdivisions with a permanent water source. James ID acquired the water rights that had been established by its predecessors, and the San Joaquin Valley Farmlands Company also deeded the District with the perpetual right to pump groundwater from beneath the land east of the Fresno Slough Bypass.

In 1921, following the formation of James ID, numerous shallow wells were drilled on land east of the Fresno Slough Bypass, and the McMullin Grade Canal and the Lassen Avenue Canal were simultaneously built by the San Joaquin Valley Farm Lands Company to transport that water to lands west of the Bypass in James ID.

Over time, more and more of the land that had been used for grazing was converted to cropland as water reliability and distribution systems improved, and the San Joaquin Valley Farm Lands holdings were sold to individuals.

In the middle of the 20th century, the United States Bureau of Reclamation Central Valley Project constructed a number of dams, canals, and reservoirs that impacted the natural flows on the Kings and San Joaquin Rivers, which also impacted the water supply for James ID. In 1963, the District contracted with USBR for roughly 35,000 annual acre feet of supplemental water to be delivered through the Delta-Mendota Canal, roughly 10,000 acre-feet of which is in exchange for water rights the District owned on the San Joaquin River prior to the construction of USBR facilities. The District also established a separate contract for Kings River water.

Today, James ID maintains both the groundwater and surface water rights that it has established dating back to its predecessor organizations, and is investing heavily in sustainability and conservation efforts to make the most of these resources. This includes significant investments in groundwater recharge basins to store water in wet years and address the requirements in the Sustainable Groundwater Management Act, the use of well monitoring technologies to track pumping and water flows, sustainable irrigation practices, and solar investments to transition to sustainable energy sources.


The District is currently diverting its rights water.

James Bypass Looking South – Floral Groundwater recharge basin in the foreground
K Basin Groundwater Recharge Facility (right) along with a partial view of the District’s Renewable Energy Solar Project.
The District’s 60 Acre Groundwater Recharge Basin Project located outside the District along McMullin road.
Approximately 200 acres of Groundwater recharge in the James Bypass
West Side Reclamation 1606 Groundwater Recharge Area