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State mandate for drought survival starts this Friday
zombie lawns
Yellowed ornamental turf was watered for more than two hours on Tuesday even though a state mandate bans the practice starting this Friday.

There was a futile effort underway Tuesday at The Way Church in the 700 block of East North Street.

It wasn’t the act of casting ballots in the primary election taking place inside the fellowship hall.

It was what was taking place outside.

Sprinklers sprayed water on a large swath of yellowed ornamental grass from at least 4 to 6:15 p.m.

Two days from now on Friday, June 10, when the forecast calls for the highest temperature of the year so far in Manteca at 106 degrees, the effort to bring back the green will officially become an exercise in futility and lawlessness.

That is the date an emergency order goes into effect statewide — no more watering of turf in place for ornamental purposes at commercial, industrial, or institutional venues such as churches and government office buildings will be allowed.

If all goes well, the ban will free up enough water to meet the needs of 760,000 households based on data released by the Department of Water Resources as California slips deeper into the throes of a severe drought now well into its third year.

The Way Church wasn’t breaking the law Tuesday except for the fact it was watering turf between noon and 6 p.m. that is strictly prohibited in Manteca due to high evaporation rates that reduce the effectiveness of watering during those hours.

The church was not alone. Dozens of similar violations were noted Tuesday. They included locations where it will be illegal to irrigate turf starting Friday as well.

It demonstrates the challenge that awaits Manteca and other local jurisdictions across California charged with implementing state mandates aimed at making sure water supplies don’t run out this year. The directive is also aimed at making sure that in the strong likelihood of a fourth consecutive year or more of drought that draconian measures such as banning all residential outdoor watering aren’t needed to avoid running out of water.

The city within the last month has just filled a long vacant water rules enforcement/education position.

Interim City Manager Toni Lundgren has made it clear rules will be enforced. She also noted staff is meeting in the coming days to develop a plan of attack to enforce state mandates, educate the public about water use rules, encourage people to save water, and find ways to reduce future water needs.

The state-imposed regulation set to take effect this Friday will drive a reduction in water use by halting irrigation of decorative or non-functional grass with potable water in commercial, industrial and institutional settings. The regulation applies to turf (mowed grass) that is ornamental and not otherwise used for recreation. It does not apply to residential lawns, school fields, sports fields, or areas regularly used for civic or community events.

Ending irrigation of non-functional grass will save the equivalent of water used by as many as 780,000 households every year. The regulation does not restrict the watering of non-turf plantings or trees, which are important for shade and cooling as the state experiences more extreme heat events.


To contact Dennis Wyatt, email