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Manteca needs to act on recycled water policy

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POSTED December 30, 2009 1:56 a.m.
It’s time to stop pontificating.

The Manteca City Council needs to put in place a concrete policy for water recycling in 2010. It ultimately will make fiscal sense and it will go a long way toward curtailing a future water crisis for Manteca.

And water recycling – complete with the installation of purple trunk pipelines – must be a part of the 1,050-acre Austin Road Business Park development agreement. If the coalition of developers doesn’t agree to do so, then this City Council must not allow the project to annex to the city.

Austin Road Business Park will have an impact on Manteca’s economy – as well as resources and lifestyles – much like an elephant walking across Jell-O. Its presence will be felt by everyone in Manteca.

At 1,050 acres it is the biggest development project ever envisioned in Manteca. It is the biggest business park ever proposed with 8 million square feet or the equivalent or 15 buildings the size of the Ford Small Parks Distribution Center in Spreckels Park. It is the biggest retail ever proposed with 3.5 million square feet or about four times the build-out of The Promenade Shops at Orchard Valley. It 3,400 homes  are the most ever proposed in one project and will accommodate up to 10,200 residents or almost a sixth of Manteca’s current population.

Manteca’s current wastewater treatment plant and surface water treatment plant represent a combined investment pushing $100 million. Factor in interests, and it easily soars past $150 million by the time the tab is finally paid.

Recycling treated wastewater will essentially help lower the per capita cost of running and operating such projects as it reduces the need for fresh drinking water to be used to irrigate landscaping. It also gives value to the clean water that is now returned to the San Joaquin River by replacing expensive treated water. Right now, Manteca is just getting rid of the treated wastewater and getting no savings or money in return.

The future for both municipal water and sewer is fraught with bad tidings.

Even without drought conditions occurring again and again, basic population growth will tax the available supply of water. Anything Manteca can do to stretch it is a wise investment.

The Central Valley Water Quality Control Board keeps ratcheting up the cleansing standard for water being returned to the river. That means more and more expense in cleaning wastewater.

Given the cost per gallon, it would make more sense to re-use that resource to irrigate parks, large lawn areas, street landscaping, and even landscaping for business parks, office complexes, retail centers and the front yards of homes.

This council – as well as predecessors – has adopted policy documents for water and general urban planning that reference the need to build purple line for water recycling in stages through 2030. It’s been five years since the first of the documents were adopted. Now the current council keeps approving water availability reports for projects that reference the recycling of water and how it will help meet needs yet not one thing has been done to make it a reality.

The council needs to put in an ironclad water recycling requirement policy with an action plan in place before any major project whether it is Austin Road Business Park or the Trails at Manteca is allowed to go forward.

It should require major trunk lines of purple water pipe to go in along major thoroughfare arterials, and collector streets to access future parks, street landscaping, schools, open space, and private landscaping as well.

The city needs to put in place a program to extend purple water trunk lines to the subdivisions from the wastewater treatment plant.

At the same time the city needs to start applying pressure on the Central Valley Regional Water Quality Control Board to expedite approval of the permit so they can start using treated wastewater to irrigate the 30-acre Big League Dreams sports complex and the landscaping at the adjoining Stadium Retail Center. The pipelines to do so have been in place now for several years.

It is ludicrous that in the third year of a major drought a state agency has yet to process a permit that would help significantly reduce water consumption.

The City Council needs to ask our state representatives to intercede in any way they can. If not, there needs to be an orchestrated campaign to point out how the state talks out of both sides of its collective mouth when it comes to water conservation.

Previous councils have left future generations a legacy of clean water and state-of-the-art wastewater treatment. The current council needs to do their part and take it to the next level.
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