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Reduce impacts of new housing on Manteca services

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POSTED April 23, 2009 2:03 a.m.
It is time for Manteca to get serious about water and energy conservation.

The Manteca City Council can start by putting new rules in place Jan. 1, 2010 for all new permits issued for new residential construction regardless of when the subdivision map was initially approved.

•All front yards must have landscaping installed with moisture sensor devices connected to a controller that is permanently programmed not to come on between the hours of noon and 6 p.m.

This would end the insane practice of sprinklers coming on when it is raining or when there is no need for them such as on foggy, wet winter days.

•Front yard grading for lawn areas must be an inch or so below the sidewalk.

Again, reducing run-off is the goal as well as to end people overwatering because the edges yellow due to water running off quicker as the lawn ages. The older the lawn becomes, the more it builds up its root system. This addresses the goal of both water waste and sending water wantonly into the storm system.

•Gray water plumbing needs to be installed that would deliver used water from bath tubs as well as possibly washing machines and sinks to a point in the back or side yard where - if the home owner wanted to   – they could install a holding tank to use the gray water to irrigate lawn or appropriate ornamentals.

It doesn’t have to be mandatory for the owner to use the gray water but by plumbing the home as it is built with the ability to divert water from the city sewer system where appropriate to the gray water collection system, you eliminate expensive retrofits requiring building permits and make it easy for the homeowner to take the next step. It reduces both the consumption of treated water and reduces used water sent to the wastewater treatment plant.

•No garbage disposals will be allowed unless a $1,000 surcharge is paid at the time an occupancy permit is issued.  Absolutely no garbage disposals will be allowed in apartments. At the time of resale, if a garbage disposal is in place it must be removed and the seller must pay the $1,000 surcharge before escrow closes.

One of the big cost factors in water treatment is all of the stuff that is sent to it that is not human waste. The more stuff the plant has to treat as state water quality control standards tighten the more expensive things become.

•No impervious improvements can be made to a front yard – concrete – without a city permit and won’t be allowed if it covers more than 33.3 percent of the front yard. If it is put in place without permission, the city can order it taken out and fine the culprit.

The rule is in place and everyone ignores it by pouring concrete as they please. The rule exists to reduce storm run-off which impacts the city’s storm drain system that can cost millions to enlarge or expand which would fall on the backs of existing city residents. The rule exists to reduce the cost of government services. Ignoring the front yard coverage rule ends up costing us all in the end.

•Whole house or attic fan would be mandatory.

Studies show they drastically reduce the need to use air conditioning by effectively cooling homes. You can ask people who have them. In a state creeping toward energy Armageddon with air conditioning use on hot days the main culprit; it makes sense to require them in all new residential construction including the top floors of apartment complexes.

Do some of these constitute government being to intrusive? Not if you understand what is happening. As we add more homes there are more pressures on all sorts of resources including those that we must provide collectively as a community – water, sewer, and storm-runoff. Also all of the measures have the ability to reduce the actual cost of owning a home which includes water and energy consumption and – if the city goes to metered sewer – wastewater costs.

It is time to end the philosophy that if someone can afford to waste resources built by a common community such as water, sewer and storm system service they have a right to do so.

Unless they pay for their own treated water system, their own wastewater treatment and find a way of disposing storm run-off without it leaving their property they are making the rest of us pick up the cost for their wasteful habits.

New homes must continue to meet a higher standard of minimizing the impacts on the community.
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