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Drought rules drop home values so much they’re up 3%

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POSTED August 15, 2015 1:10 a.m.

Property values, we were told, were going to plummet in Manteca due to the city’s stepped up water conservation rules that most residents are following.

Now that we have an abundance of yellow and brown lawns and some that are about as close to dirt as you can get without being dirt it is  apparent that someone forgot to tell buyers they are suppose to be paying less for homes.

Since Manteca stepped up its water conservation game six months ago, the price of homes closing escrow has gone up almost 3 percent across the board. The median price of homes is now resting at $309,500 in Manteca.

And since the severe drought started four years, Manteca median home prices are up an astonishing $121,250 from $188,250 in 2012.

Property values will be zilch if we run out of water.

If you doubt that consider what has happened in the past 100 years when American communities over drafted aquifers in tandem with a severe drought. The Dust Bowl in the 1930s devastated property values, destroyed farms and towns alike, and threw tens of thousands of families out onto the streets in search of food and jobs.

Of course, that won’t happen again, right? We’re invincible.

But wait a second. The severe drought in the Midwest occurred just as people were struggling to get out from under the Great Depression. People ignored the need to change water consumption habits. The San Joaquin Valley was in the final throes of the Great Recession when the current severe drought started four years ago.

If we learned anything from the Dust Bowl is that we can ill afford to let our consumption of water outpace our supply. Thanks to responsible government — a host of local municipal agencies and water districts that have been working diligently since the 1976-77 drought to reduce per capita water consumption as well as farmers that have done the same in terms of what it takes to grow food we need — California in most areas of the state had scaled back per capita water use despite growth.

Then the current severe drought hit.

It was also a wake-up call for those who give more thought to water than simply turning on or off a faucet or buying it in bottles at a store.

California’s developed water supplies in terms of surface storage were completed in 1965 when the state had a population of 18.5 million people. Today, 50 years later, we have more than doubled to 38.8 million people

There is no getting around that 60 percent of the state’s developed water sources — reservoirs — rely on the Sierra snowpack. Even underground sources rely on water that seeps into aquifers in the mountains.

It is why cities such as Manteca must commit 100 percent to maximizing water use.

Manteca City Manager Karen McLaughlin and South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager both have astutely noted this isn’t just about the current drought year. They believe we are in a paradigm shift when it comes to how California uses water based on continuing growth. While developing more storage space will help somewhat, it isn’t the solution that will keep our communities thriving, natural features from fish to forests alive, or our stomachs — and that of a good share of the United States and the world — fed.

There is also scientific research that strongly indicates we could very well be at the start of a long-term drought that may run for 50 years or more broken up by wet years every so often.

It is why elected leaders must strike a balancing act. They should listen to those ranting about property values dropping — which they aren’t — and those that want all construction to cease because we won’t have any water left. It should tell them they need to strike a balance with the scales always ready to tip toward saving more water.

We have to eat. We have to protect our rivers and fish while addressing our essential needs.

We can’t continue using water for ornamental purposes the way we have been. We can’t afford not to have landscaping that does everything from reduce dust and help make run-offs from storms less destructive to the absolutely essential reason there are plants, trees and such — the generation of oxygen that we breath.

The programs and rules the city has in place are a start. But it is clear we have to move back toward what is natural for landscaping in California that does well in our Mediterranean climate without the need to import water from 400 miles away.

And we must pay no heed to those who live in $2.9 million homes with five bedrooms and eight bathrooms on a lot overlooking Tulloch Lake when they start acting as if the world is coming to an end because SSJID has the audacity to keep the Stanislaus River from experiencing an ecological disaster by lowering the water on a lake that Manteca, Ripon, and Escalon farmers built. It is what owners of multi-million dollar homes piggybacked on like parasites to use for free while at the same time enhancing their personal worth.

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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