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Flush the water tank art idea down the toilet

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POSTED December 9, 2013 12:35 a.m.

The nice thing about the 3.7 million water tank going up on Atherton Drive is that you won’t see much of it.

There is an 8-foot sound wall going along the site that borders the railroad tracks. Landscaping that was already in place has started to do a nice job of blocking the massive squat tank from the view of motorists and pedestrians.

And it won’t be a signature structure for travelers driving nearby Highway 99 as sight lines and existing buildings make it difficult to grab much more than a fleeting glimpse of the tank.

This all begs the question: Why does anyone in their right mind — myself included — even want to consider spending anywhere from $15,000 to $30,000 placing a high-profile decal, an American flag replica, a mural or even lettering on the tank?

The upper third of the 37-foot high structure might be visible now but give trees a few years and future growth between Moffat Boulevard and the freeway and the odds are Manteca will have something unique that its neighbors in Ripon, Lathrop, and Stockton don’t have — a stealth water tank.

Massive obtrusive water tanks in a perfect world should do their job and not be seen.

As for spending money on art, lettering and such on top so people surfing the Internet one day using sites such as Google Earth could possibly pick out Manteca by the top of the water tank being cutting edge we all need to get a grip.

Here’s a thought: Wouldn’t it be better if someone Googled “Manteca” in the future and up popped a reference to it being one of the most miserly cities for water usage in California?

One way to make that possible is to take the $56,700 or so that the tank art for both the sides and top would cost and use it to launch a program to aggressively retrofit existing homes that do not have low-flow toilets.

It would save water which in turn would save the folks who get the toilet money as well as everyone else paying to use Manteca’s municipal water money. That’s because developing new water sources is extremely expensive. It also has the advantage of stretching water which is arguably the most critical resource a city in California has to assure a healthy local economy. It would also expand the capacity of the expensive wastewater treatment plant as all water passing through it must be treated.

Toilets account for an average of 30 percent of all water use in a typical household.

The $56,700 would cover the $300 cost and installation of 189 low-flow toilets to replace older models. The latest low-flow toilets use 1.1 gallons per flush as opposed to the standard toilet water use of 3.5 gallons per flush.

That would save 4 million gallons of water a year or enough water to meet the needs of 22.9 families for a year.

The Environmental Protection Agency cites numerous case studies including a 189-unit apartment complex in San Francisco that secured such water savings.

Another statistic the EPA emphasizes is that a low-flow toilet versus an old school porcelain throne saves a typical household $90 a year or $2,000 over the lifetime of the toilet.

New construction standards mandate low-flow toilets. The City of Manteca over the years has offered rebates for those who replaced older toilets.

There are probably thousands of homes in older sections of the city that do not have low flow, high efficiency toilets.

The city could launch the program by making it available to senior homeowners. If they have the old-style toilets they could apply for a replacement. And — if they meet low-income standards — both the toilet and installation could be paid from the water fund. If they are above the income levels, the city then could supply the toilet or reimburse up to $250 with the recipient having to pay for the installation.

The council could pass an ordinance requiring all real estate transactions within the city limits cannot close escrow unless old-style toilets are replaced with low-flow, high efficiency versions. The city could cover the toilet cost up to $250 and leave the installation up to the parties involved in the transaction.

Other homeowners who do not have high efficiency toilets could — if they meet moderate income or lower standards — could have the toilet paid for and installed. If they are above moderate they could have the cost of the toilet up to $250 covered while they would need to pay for the installation.

Those owning rental homes could apply for the cost of having the toilets paid for up to $250.

Such a program would have a high enough of an incentive with the toilet or else the toilet and installation costs covered that it should have a significant drawing power.

The water fund could establish a much more aggressive annual effort to install high efficiency toilets to the point 350 a year could be done at a rough cost of $100,000.

That would mean in 10 years times 3,500 low-flow toilets could be put in place to save 80 million gallons or so of water on an annual basis or enough water to meet the annual needs of 460 households or 1,420 people.

It is a lot cheaper than drilling new water wells and then paying for electricity to pump water and treat it.

Saving water and saving money is a much more powerful message than art work on a water tank that few, if anyone, will notice.

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