Merced Irrigation District owns, operates and maintains the New Exchequer and McSwain dams, reservoirs, and hydroelectric facilities. These are Merced Irrigation District's primary water storage facilities on the Merced River. They are located in the foothills on the western slope of the Sierra Nevada mountain range, approximately 23 miles northeast of Merced. The two dams and reservoirs are integral parts of the 1964 Merced River Development Project, and are licensed by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission (FERC). New Exchequer Reservoir (Lake McClure) has a storage capacity of 1,024,600 acre feet, while McSwain Reservoir (Lake McSwain) has a storage capacity of 9,730 acre feet. The New Exchequer Dam Project was completed in 1967 as a multi-purpose facility providing facilities and water for all beneficial uses, including domestic and irrigation water, flood control, hydroelectric power generation, recreation, and the environment.
The District's Water System diverts water from the Merced River at two locations. The Northside Canal diversion serves about 10,000 acres of farm ground north of the Merced River. The Main Canal diversion has a capacity of 2,000 cfs, and is located 3 miles downstream of the McSwain Dam. The diversion is from a small reservoir created by the Crocker Huffman Diversion Dam, owned and operated by the District. The Diversion Dam also provides water to salmon and trout hatcheries and rearing facilities.
Irrigation water for agricultural purposes has historically flowed from these two diversion points to some 88,000 acres of land irrigated in 2007 within Merced Irrigation District boundaries, encompassing 164,000 gross acres. Total irrigable lands in the Merced Irrigation District amount to 138,000 acres. Of the 825 total miles of water distribution facilities, earthen lined channels account for 596 miles, or 75% concrete lined channels, 109 miles, or 14% and 89 miles of pipelines or 11%. The Merced Irrigation District also maintains some 4,100 delivery gates, as well as 1,500 check structures. In addition to providing irrigation water, Merced Irrigation District also uses its existing irrigation distribution system for local flood control by routing local foothills runoff and stream flood waters away from populated areas. Merced Irrigation District formed the Merced Irrigation District Drainage Improvement District #1 (MIDDID#1) in 1994. There are several residential, commercial, industrial, and government parcels located primarily within the urban area of Merced Irrigation District that received drainage service today.
In addition to surface water from the Merced River, the Merced Irrigation District owns, operates and maintains 239 deep irrigation wells of which 170 are currently active. These deep irrigation wells have historically developed a maximum of 182,900 acre feet at 100% pumping capacity (1976). The wells have been used by the District conjunctively with surface water since the wells were installed.
Merced Irrigation District owns, operates and maintains five recreation areas adjacent to the lakes behind New Exchequer and McSwain Dams. The Lake McSwain Recreation Area is located adjacent to Lake McSwain. McClure Point, Barrett Cove, Horseshoe Bend and Bagby Recreation Areas are all located adjacent to Lake McClure. A total of six boat launch facilities are available in the Parks system. Over 600 campsites are available to the public on a year-round basis. Floating marinas are located on Lake McSwain and in two locations on Lake McClure for the boating public. Recreational activities enjoyed in the recreation areas include fishing, boating, swimming, camping, hiking and bicycling.
Merced Irrigation District is authorized to act as an electric utility under the California Water Code. Merced Irrigation District has owned and operated hydroelectric generating facilities on the Merced River since 1927. In 1995, Merced Irrigation District exercised its authority to sell power to retail electric customers. Merced Irrigation District offers its customers full requirements electric service including power supply and delivery to the customer. Since 1996, Merced Irrigation District has connected over 8,500 customers to Merced Irrigation District's electric system.