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Mayor: Time to step up water conservation

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POSTED January 7, 2014 1:23 a.m.

Manteca Mayor Willie Weatherford wants the city staff to start taking steps to reduce water waste now and not later.

Weatherford on Monday said he’d like to see an information campaign through the issuance of warnings to water wasters to start now with plans to enforce the rules through fines by summer.

The mayor’s proposal comes on the heels of South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Jeff Shields indicating last week that the cities of Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy could face reduced surface water deliveries later this year if the current drought pattern continues.

“It’s time we start moving in that direction,” Weatherford said of stepped up water conservation.

California has just come off its driest calendar year on record. Snowpack in the Sierra — the state’s largest water reservoir — was only at 20 percent of normal at the start of January. Reservoir levels statewide are below the marks they were at in 1977 at the start of the worst drought year in modern history.

“It’s better to take steps now instead of waiting and then  maybe having to say it was foolish not to start conserving earlier,” noted Shields.

The SSJID board meets next Tuesday to ponder a rare early irrigation run. At the same time they are already fielding requests from agencies throughout the state in desperate need of water. Shields expects great pressure to be put on districts situated like the SSJID to share water to reduce the potential for disaster elsewhere in California.

Manteca’s water conservation program limits the time of day when people can water and assigns water days by odd and even street addresses as well as prohibits the use of open end hoses to wash cars and bans gutter flooding. The program starts every year with the arrival of Daylight Savings Time. It ends with the return to normal time in the fall. This year Daylight Savings Time starts on March 9.

Weatherford believes the city’s conservation program should start now and not later.

He’s against going directly to enforcement believing an education effort is needed first to help people understand what they need to do to comply plus reduce the potential for animosity.

In the past, the city has enlisted volunteers such as the Seniors Helping Area Residents and Police to educate the public about Toter rules before following it up with tickets.

He indicated that water supplies are so crucial that the city many have to consider possibly hiring “a water cop” when summer rolls around to enforce the rules.

Weatherford pointed out what Shields and other water experts have already noted. Even if rain fall from now until the end of May were above normal the state’s reservoirs are too low for water supplies to return to normal levels by the time summer hits.

And while the city could step up ground water pumping to make up for less surface water, Weatherford said that move has serious consequences.

“It would cause problems for our neighbors (in Lathrop) with salt water intrusion,” the mayor noted.

During the 1987 to 1989 drought salt water intrusion was detected as far east as Jack Tone Road in higher aquifers.

At the same time overdrafting has meant water tables throughout the Central Valley have been dropping for 30 years.

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