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Ripon taking close look at water use for play feature & decorative city fountain
Emilio Aguilar plays in Ripons interactive water feature at Mistlin Park on Saturday. - photo by HIME ROMERO/The Bulletin

The City of Ripon has no way of knowing how much water is actually being used by the interactive water feature at Mistlin Park, or by the pair of water fountains that grace the city’s entrance on the east side of Highway 99.

And that’s because until now they’ve never been metered.

But while the State of California is forcing communities throughout the valley to shut down their interactive water features because they don’t use re-circulated  water, Ripon is using the mandate to get hard numbers and verify what they already believe is true – the recirculation system that’s already in place uses drastically less water than say the water feature that Manteca had installed at Library Park.

All of that water in Manteca went straight into the storm drain. Manteca City Manager Karen McLaughlin ordered that water feature turned off in April 2014 due to the continuing drought.

“We’re looking at everything right now because of the fact that we’re going to have to reduce our usage by 35 percent to meet that state directive and we’re still a ways away from that,” Ripon Public Works Director Ted Johnston said. “We’re looking at everything and how we’re going meet that goal and the fountain and the play feature are just two parts of that. We believe that the evaporation rate of the surface area of the water at the fountain on 2nd Street is pretty minimal, but everything is on the table for discussion on how we can reduce in the near future along with other water conservation measures.”

Last week the City of Lathrop decided to temporarily shutter one of its water features because it doesn’t have a re-circulating system that was included in their other design. That means even though they’re willing to set aside $100,000 to install the recirculation pipes and the necessary filters to keep the treated water clean enough for people to come into contact with it, it’ll still take a construction project before it’s up to California’s new standard.

Ripon, however, did things a little bit differently. With backing from local philanthropist Tony Mistlin, the interactive water feature included a sub-level where pumps and filters made sure that the water being pushed out was clean enough for people to play in. Their system uses a 500-gallon tank that gets a partial refill at night in order to freshen up the water so that public contact goes off without a hitch. The city has to get permitted through the San Joaquin County Health Department in order to operate it.

And things occasionally don’t go according to plan.

Last summer the city had to close the feature down for several days and disinfect the piping and the holding tank beneath after it was reported that somebody was washing a dirty baby’s bottom out with the jetted water. Even with the water mildly chlorinated, Johnston said that they had to go through and scrub everything to ensure that bacteria wouldn’t be spread to the next person who jumps out into the water.

Ripon has started to take a proactive role in ensuring that the city and its residents are compliant during what is being considered the worst drought to hit California in decades – even going so far as to hire a “water cop” that can cite homeowners not following the city’s watering ordinance.

It’s only fitting, Johnston said, that Ripon also look at itself to see ways that water can be saved. The information gleaned from the report, which is currently underway, will be provided to the Ripon City Council for their consideration.

“We are looking at how much water they each use,” Johnston said. “Each one of (the water features) is on different systems so we’re looking at what can be done to get the most out of it for our residents and for the state. We’ve never looked at these types of numbers for this before, so it’s important to do this.”