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Manteca: The Mother of All water wasters

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POSTED July 24, 2014 1:09 a.m.

The City of Manteca is the biggest water waster by far.

This is a point not lost on Willie Weatherford who can’t understand why the city is the Mother of All Gutter Flooders sending close to 9 million gallons of good water down the drain and into the San Joaquin River each day.

Weatherford is usually a patient man.

But when it comes to Manteca moving forward with deploying purple pipe to recycle treated wastewater for use in municipal parks and at the golf course, the mayor is nearing the end of his rope.

Weatherford for the better part of a decade has advocated for the city to stop dumping its most expensive water back in to the river. That expensive water is what we collectively flush down the toilet or send down the drain that is subjected to an expensive and effective treatment that makes it significantly cleaner than water flowing in the San Joaquin River.

Over the years, there has been talk but nothing has happened.

A redevelopment bond measure identified purple pipe for landscape irrigation along the 120 Bypass but that went nowhere. The city designed Big League Dreams and the Stadium Retail Center’s landscaping areas to utilize recycled wastewater. It even got an OK from the Central Valley Regional Water Control Board after years of trying. But it went nowhere. The reason given: The shallow well put in to irrigate BLD was less expensive.

To save money was the wrong reason not to proceed with putting in place purple pipe and using recycled wastewater to keep the fields at BLD green. You don’t secure water for today. You secure it for tomorrow.

While the water that is being pumped to irrigate BLD is non-potable and from a higher water table, it eventually seeps through strata below it. As it flows downward further it is cleansed and ends up in the deeper aquifer that Manteca and others rely on for drinking water.

Had Manteca taken a progressive stance on recycled wastewater by putting their words into action eight years ago, Manteca’s water picture would be much brighter today.

That’s because if the city had tapped into recycled water to irrigate parks, schools, and other large landscaped areas such as the golf course it could easily be reusing 4 million gallons or roughly half of what it sends to the river during the summer. That would have amounted to 120 million gallons in June.

So instead of using 502 million gallons last month compared to 631 million gallons as city residents did in June 2013 for a 20.4 percent reduction, Manteca’s water use could have dropped to 382 million gallons. Using recycled wastewater to irrigate, Manteca could potentially have reduced water use from surface and ground sources by a whopping 40 percent in June.

In reality, Manteca probably wouldn’t have gotten to a point that quick in terms of saving but one thing is for sure: You will never save any additional water if you keep letting one of the most previous commodities the city has in the form of recycled wastewater essentially flow into the Delta and either out into the ocean or to the California Aqueduct to benefit Los Angeles.

The mayor figures it would take just one lift station or perhaps two at most to get recycled water from the treatment plant to the 122-acre municipal golf course where it would first fill the ponds before being used for irrigation. The golf course is the city’s biggest water user with the water coming from shallow wells of 200 feet or less.

The water could easily be tapped into to provide irrigation for Stella Brockman School. It wouldn’t take too much more of an effort to reach the Tidewater. That would allow water to reach Northgate Park, Spreckels Park, Library Park and a number of places with municipal landscaping.

Using recycled wastewater isn’t a cure-all. But it is definitely would be the backbone of a well-rounded effort to reduce water consumption to match Manteca’s use with the reality that has always been California — we are a Mediterranean climate with not a lot of precipitation between mid-spring and late fall. We are more like the Mojave Desert but we act like we are in the Amazon rain forest.

Even the Los Angeles Basin is into water recycling for use in industrial applications, to water landscaping or to recharge underground aquifers.

That is why Manteca letting 9 million gallons of perfectly good water that can be used for landscaping, to recharge aquifers or even with an additional treatment process for human consumption is a much bigger sin than the irresponsible homeowner flooding a gutter when watering their lawn.


This column is the opinion of executive editor, Dennis Wyatt, and does not necessarily represent the opinion of The Bulletin or Morris Newspaper Corp. of CA.  He can be contacted at or 209.249.3519.

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