Drive down Woodward Avenue — or any other street in Manteca for that matter that has a landscaped area maintained by the city — and you will see periodic examples of gutter flooding and watering between the hours of noon and 6 p.m.
Both situations are in clear violation of the city’s year round water conservation rules residents and businesses are required to follow.
This is happening against the background of all of San Joaquin County being classified as suffering from extreme drought and part of the Stanislaus River watershed that Manteca partially depends upon for water slipping into the most dire category — exceptional drought.
It is what prompted the San Joaquin County Democratic Central Committee to send a representative to Tuesday’s City Council meeting to encourage elected leaders to declare a drought emergency.
And while it wasn’t on the agenda meaning the council couldn’t legally take action, all council members passed on a chance to ask for consensus to have staff bring declaring a drought emergency back for consideration at a future meeting.
South San Joaquin Irrigation District has repeatedly asked growers and cities — the agency delivers treated water to Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy — to be vigilant about conserving water. The reason is simple. The Stanislaus River watershed is now experiencing what is shaping up as the third driest year in the 120 years of record keeping.
The SSJID indicated they expect to meet full water delivery commitments this year providing everyone that uses the district’s water are careful using it.
Tracy earlier this month declared a drought emergency.
That city implemented the third of five steps that require reducing year-to-year water use by 20 percent. Tracy, like Manteca, takes groundwater from a declining aquifer. They also face the potential of SSJID curtailments is conservation measures aren’t taken.
They also are dealing with the reality Tracy’s contract for 10,000 acre feet of water a year from the Bureau of Reclamation has been slashed to 1,500 acre feet for 2021 due to the deepening drought.
Governor Newsom, in declaring a drought emergency throughout much of the state, called for Californians to voluntarily reduce water use by 15 percent.
Manteca reduced water consumption 4.9 percent last month compared to June 2020. The drop came despite Manteca adding 2,519 residents over the past 12 months.
Even so, that is only a third of the 15 percent reduction being requested to help stretch dwindling water supplies.
Back in 2015 as the last drought started to deepen, a previous council wasted little time.
What they did was:
*Form an ad-hoc citizens committee to advise the council on potential water conservation measures.
*Impose mandatory year round water conservation rules that are still in place today.
*Created a “water cop” position to enforce rules. The new hire proactively drove city streets in a search for violators. The initial interaction was to educate and issue warnings. After that violators were cited and fined with repeat offenses costing more. As of a month ago the city’s “water cop” position remained vacant despite the deepening drought.
*The water department, free of charge, helped homeowners who requested it to figure out how to adjust their automatic irrigation systems.
*City crews were instructed to cut lawns and grass areas on municipal property higher to reduce heat stress and burning which in turn reduced water use. Lawns have been identified by the city as the single largest consumer of water in Manteca.
*The council changed the rule that 45 percent of the front yard areas of new homes had to be planted in grass. Now the front yards are limited to a small grass area if buyers elect to have a lawn area at all.
*A cash incentive to replace the front yard turf of existing homes and businesses with drought resistant landscaping was put in place.
The city’s lawn-to-garden rebate program that is still in place is designed to remove high water consuming turf and replacing it with water-efficient landscaping suited to the semi-arid climate of the Northern San Joaquin Valley. It pays an incentive of $1 per square foot up to 650 feet for residential and 5,000 square feet for commercial to help offset conversion costs.
Manteca’s water rules
The stricter water rules that were adopted for Manteca residents and businesses 73 months ago are as follows:
*No irrigation is allowed during or within 48 hours following measurable rainfall as defined by storms that generate run-off or puddles.
*No watering is allowed on Monday or any day between noon and 6 p.m. Watering for even addresses is on Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday while odd addresses can water on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday.
*No water will be allowed on any day at any time for washing off sidewalks, driveways, patios, parking lots or other exterior non-landscaped areas without a permit obtained from the Manteca Public Works Department office at the Civic Center.
*No water will be allowed to flow into a gutter or other drainage area for longer than 5 minutes. All water leaks or malfunctions in plumbing or irrigation systems must be fixed with 24 hours.
Penalties include a written notice on the first violation, a $100 fine with applicable fees on the second violation that may be waived by attending a water conservation workshop; a $200 fine and applicable fees on the third violation; and $500 fines for each and every subsequent violation plus applicable fees.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email firstname.lastname@example.org