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Manteca may not get serious about cutting water use until September
sj river
A sand bar is now showing in the middle of the San Joaquin River just north of the Airport Way bridge south of Manteca. Locals say that in spots the middle of the river is barely 4 feet deep making it impossible to use personal watercraft such as Jet Skis. Despite the low levels the river can still be treacherous.

Manteca — under a request by the South San Joaquin Irrigation District to reduce water use by 20 percent due to deepening drought conditions — may not make a serious attempt to do so until mid-September at the earliest.

Staff had recommended reducing all outside landscape watering citywide from three to two days a week in a bid to help reach the 20 percent cutback.

Such a move, once prohibitions about gutter flooding are taken into account, would effectively reduce the amount of potable water used to irrigate ornamental residential grass which is the biggest single use of water in Manteca.

San Joaquin County — like all 58 counties — is part of a statewide drought emergency.

Staff, instead of presenting the council with actual ordinance options that could be voted on at Tuesday’s meeting, simply asked for direction on whether the elected leaders wanted to implement the reduction in allowed watering days. They will now fashion an ordinance based on council direction to move to twice a week watering.

The city passed on moving forward with an urgency ordinance that — if it garnered a four-fifths council vote — would go into effect immediately.

The city opted not to take that route despite:

*The state declaring a statewide drought emergency.

*The council itself declaring a drought emergency last month.

*Gov. Gavin Newsom calling for a 20 percent reduction in water use to stretch water supplies.

*The major supplier of more than half the city’s water — the SSJID — asking the city to reduce its water use by 20 percent.

*Staff indicated year-to-year water use in Manteca based on June 2022 to June 2021 numbers is down just 4 percent.

Staff explained to the council Tuesday that based on scheduled meetings and such as well as the requirement that it take 30 days after the second reading and adoption by the council via a non-urgency ordinance for new changes to go into effect, new rules for watering may not go into effect until mind-September.

At the same time the need to incorporate the June 10 state prohibition into the city’s municipal code regarding commercial, industrial, and institutional sites using portable drinking water to irrigate non-functional turf, means the city will have no way of effectively enforcing the mandate with fines until ordinance changes go into effect.

If the Manteca council opts to go with twice a week outside watering even addresses would be allowed to water on Tuesdays and Saturdays while odd addresses would be allowed to water on Wednesdays and Sundays.

Councilman Charlie Halford inquired of staff whether it made sense to go from three to two days as residents may just water their lawns for a longer time twice a week. Staff noted the city rule prohibiting sprinkler water running down gutter for more than 5 minutes is designed to prevent that from happening.

Councilman Gary Singh indicated he wanted staff to return with plans to significantly increase the percentage of front yard areas for new home construction that needs to be planted with drought tolerant and landscaping to further reduce water use triggered by growth.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email