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State edict: Say goodbye green grass
The Turlock City Council is set to consider implementing a penalty of $25 for those single-family residential water customers whose water use exceeds 40,000 gallons per month. - photo by Photo Contributed

The grass in front of city halls in Manteca, Lathrop and Ripon is going to turn brown.

So is the grass in front of churches, Doctors Hospital of Manteca, Kaiser Manteca Hospital, non-play areas  at school campuses, commercial and industrial properties and in landscaped corridors such as along Spreckels Avenue.

It will happen due to an emergency state order issued Tuesday that such watering of grass areas will not be allowed starting June 10 as the acute drought griping California deepens. It applies to all turf in front or next to industrial and commercial buildings and that of institutional properties such as cemeteries, schools, government facilities, colleges, and such. Grass that can't be watered includes anything that's used for decoration and not for regular activities or events.

The State Water Resources Control Board order will not impact the ability to water grass used for recreation such as in parks or on playing fields. Nor will it impact water used to keep grass green at residences or to maintain trees.  It also applies to grass managed by homeowners' associations but not individual residents. Violators can be fined $500 per day.

Interim Manteca City Manager Toni Lundgren said staff is working to determine what areas in the city specifically will not be allowed to water grass and devise an enforcement strategy.

The city has just filled a water conservation enforcement and education position with plans to step up education efforts.

The order banning specific grass areas from being watered  is part of the state’s contingency plans to cope with up to a 20 percent shortage of water. If the drought continues into a fourth year or gets more severe before then, there are more drastic water cutbacks in the contingency plan that will be implemented.

For now, the new regulation banning irrigating turf at commercial, industrial, and institutional properties is the biggest challenge for cities such as Manteca.

Manteca is already complying with requirements to limit outdoor irrigation to certain days and hours.

It is also working on implementing three other state mandated Level 2 strategies:

*Increasing patrols to identify water waste.

*Enforcing water use prohibitions.

Increasing communications about the importance of water conservation.

Tuesday’s order came on the heels of Californians overall failing to comply with Governor Gavin Newsom’s call over the past 10 months to voluntarily reduce water consumption by 15 percent compared the previous year.

 In March 2022, the state’s urban retail water suppliers reported average water use statewide that was nearly 19% greater than in March 2020, lowering the state’s cumulative water savings since July 2021 to 3.7%.

Manteca’s per capita water use jumped 17.9 percent going from April 2021 to April 2022

 Newsom convened leaders from the state’s largest urban water suppliers on Tuesday  imploring them to take more aggressive action to combat drought. At the same time the South San Joaquin Irrigation District Board adopted a resolution calling on its urban customers — the cities of Manteca, Lathrop, and Tracy — to voluntarily cutback surface water delivers by 20 percent.

“The severity of this drought requires all Californians to save water in every possible way,” said Joaquin Esquivel, chair of the State Water Board. “The regulation compels water systems and local authorities to implement a range of additional critical conservation measures as we enter the hot and dry summer months.”

California is in its third year of an acute drought, part of a two-decade megadrought facing the U.S. West that scientists say is the worst in 1,200 years. Hotter temperatures are also exacerbating the state's water challenges as people have started to water their lawns earlier than normal. This January through March marked California's driest winter in at least a century.

The order comes after the state via the State Water Project as well as the federal government via the Central Valley Project severely cut or eliminated contracted water deliveries for the rest of the year.

“(The) State Water Board emergency water conservation regulation continues to demonstrate how serious this year’s drought is,” noted Mike Wade, executive director of the California Farm Bureau Water Coalition in a press release.” Water conservation measures are reaching farther and farther into our communities and now go beyond the water supply cuts felt by California farms and rural communities earlier this year.

 The taps that deliver surface water to the farms that grow food bought at grocery stores were effectively turned off in March and April. Almost half of the irrigated farmland in California has had its surface water supply reduced by 50% or more.

 “We live in an increasingly unstable world, but politicians and regulators are not doing the work needed to guard our safe, affordable, domestic food supply during these uncertain times. Failing to act will not only worsen rising food costs, they may permanently disrupt the food systems that many now take for granted,” Wade noted.

 "California farms produce over half of the country’s fruits, nuts, and vegetables. California foods aren’t just in the produce aisle, but also in the ready-made foods and ingredients we eat every single day. That can’t happen without water and we cannot simply move California production to other states. A safe, affordable, domestic food supply is a national security issue, just like energy. The government must make it a priority.”


Manteca’s water rules

The stricter water rules that were adopted for Manteca residents and businesses 84 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 application plus applicable fees.



To contact Dennis Wyatt, email