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39.6% per capita drop in flushing

Manteca conservation efforts paying dividends

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39.6% per capita drop in flushing

Manteca’s wastewater treatment plant has capacity to accommodate growth through at least 2030.

HIME ROMERO/Bulletin file photo

POSTED May 9, 2013 1:17 a.m.

Manteca is flush with wastewater treatment capacity.

And it’s thanks to ongoing efforts by residents to reduce water consumption.

An audit shows the amount of wastewater per household being sent to the treatment plant from Manteca’s 23,000 households has fallen from 265 gallons a day in 1998 to 160 gallons a day in 2013. That reflects a 39.6 percent drop in wastewater generation.

“We’ve had a substantial savings through conservation efforts such as low-flow toilets, high efficiency washing machines, and low-flow shower heads,” Public Works Director Mark Houghton told the Manteca City Council on Tuesday. “Some of it may have to do with demographics as we have more one and two person households.”

Still, the numbers are impressive and underscore one reason among several why Manteca hasn’t had a sewer rate increase in more than five years.

It also is effectively stretching the original investment of more than $50 million in the plant upgrade and expansion that started in 1998. The expansion pushed the design capacity of the plant to 10 million gallons per day. Based on use patterns in 1998, Manteca should have been within 5 percent of maximizing out the treatment plant capacity this year. Instead, there is 3.5 million gallons still available or enough to serve the equivalent of 35,000 more people.

Not all sewer capacity, though, is earmarked for housing. Some 14.7 percent of the plant’s capacity goes to Lathrop. There are also business and employment center uses as well as schools and other concerns.

Municipal staff is now projecting even with set aside for Lathrop, the earliest the plant would reach capacity is 2030. That’s with moderate growth. If growth is a little slower than historic trends, there will be adequate capacity through 2034. Originally, the game plan anticipated the next expansion would have been started by now.

Houghton noted the treatment plant as it sits today has adequate capacity for:

• 3,488 housing units yet to be built that have committed capacity through development agreements or have been approved with no development agreements.

• 3,045 housing units for entitled lots through approved tentative maps and pending final maps.

• 4,953 housing units plus industrial and commercial uses in the approved master planned projects consisting of the Austin Road Business Park, Yosemite Square Business Park, and CenterPoint Business Park.

• 1,696 housing units under review.

While the council was pleased with the report, they nevertheless voiced concern that Manteca had to manage the treatment plant capacity carefully and treat it as a valuable commodity.

“My main concern is to protect our city and the community,” Councilman Steve DeBrum said in reference to any effort that may be considered to share the treatment plant capacity with other jurisdictions.

While he didn’t mean that as shutting the door to such a possibility, he wants to make sure that Manteca needs are covered first.

Councilman John Harris wanted to make sure that the city would be nimble enough to accommodate additional employment centers epically if they were a “wet user” that needed significant wastewater treatment plant capacity.

Houghton assured that was the case since the plant was designed to allow for a fairly quick expansion of 2.5 million gallons per day that’s should take three years to accomplish.

Councilwoman Debby Moorhead, though, noted she was “not quite as optimistic” about the three year turnaround considering how the state approval process stretched out the last expansion and retrofit project to more than 10 years.

Councilman Vince Hernandez wanted to make sure the city continues to do whatever it takes to avoid squandering either wastewater treatment plant capacity or treated water. He emphasized the city needs to continue pursuing irrigation wells at all city parks that tap into higher water tables that are non-potable. The city has already put in place a number of such wells that have reduced the consumption of expensive treated drinking water.

“There are people in the community who believe they own the sewer capacity,” Manteca Mayor Willie Weathrford said in reference to developers. “(The) people of Manteca own this capacity.”

Weatherford’s remarks may signal a return to bonus bucks - the money the city received in various agreements to guarantee sewer capacity for housing - that were held in abeyance until next year.

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