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Major storm rolling in
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Sometime Wednesday night the Northern San Joaquin Valley will be battered by a major storm that by the time it ends Friday may drop as much as 3 inches of rain and deliver wind gusts greater than 60 mph.

The National Weather Service is warning people to prepare for widespread power outages, downed trees, urban flooding, near whiteout conditions with heavy snow in the Sierra, and mud slides in recently burned over areas. It is the mark of a storm system that the National Weather Service says delivers a “magnitude impact in California once every several years.”

But while the north state is being drenched officials from local to state levels are pleading with residents to continue to conserve water.

The Association of California Water Agencies cautioned last week that all models show the entire state needs to get 150 percent of normal snow and rain in order to break the back of the three-year drought.

“We’ve been living off (water) storage for the past three years,” noted South San Joaquin Irrigation District General Manager Jeff Shields of farms and cities throughout the Golden State. “Storage works; it’s just that we don’t have enough storage space. We still need to conserve water.”

Shields on Monday was helping guide a tour of state water officials anxious to learn how SSJID has implemented a cutting edge water conservation program in partnership with district farmers plus to see firsthand how the state-of-the-art drip irrigation delivery system put in place in Division 9 south of Manteca and west of Ripon has managed to save over 10,000 acre feet of water in just over two years while improving crop production.

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Manteca reduces water use by 19% in November

Manteca Public Works Director Mark Houghton echoed the sentiments of Shields and state water officials.

“We have to remember we need to always conserve water even in the winter,” Houghton said.

Year round water conservation is the new reality for California given the population is pushing the 40 million mark with a statewide water storage system built in the 1960s when there were 16 million residents.

Exacerbating the static storage capacity are underground water tables including the ones tapped into by Manteca, Ripon, and Lathrop that have been steadily dropping for decades. The drop off has increased with the advent of the current drought. County officials have warned the water table will have fallen by at least 10 feet this year by the time Dec. 31 arrives.

Houghton reported Manteca’s overall municipal water use at 191.2 million gallons for November, down 19 percent from 311.8 million gallons used in November 2013.

Manteca’s more stringent year round water conservation rules go into effect on Jan. 1. The biggest change besides being permanent and no longer tied to the time change is the elimination of one day a week —Monday — that anyone can water landscaping. 

The changes to the city’s water conservation ordinance is the first step of a number of measures Manteca is preparing to take as California heads for what is expected be a fourth consecutive drought year.

The new rules are as follows:

• Banning all outdoor watering on Mondays.

• Odd-numbered businesses and residential street addresses will be allowed to water Wednesday, Friday and Sunday but not between noon and 6 p.m.

• Even numbered businesses and residential addresses will be allowed to water Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday but not between noon and 6 p.m.

• Water conservation measures instead of just taking place during Daylight Savings will be implemented year round. That includes no washing of non-landscaped exterior ground areas without a permit, not allowing water to flow into the gutter or a drainage area for a period exceeding five minutes, and making it unlawful or wash automobiles or boats without a positive shut-off muzzle or a bucket and sponge.

• First time violators will receive a written notice with no penalty imposed.

• Second violations will trigger a written notice and a $50 fine. The fine, though, may be waived if a violator attends a brief water conservation seminar offered by the Public Works Department. The seminar will allow violators the opportunity to gain a greater knowledge of the city’s water system as well as the importance of water conservation to the community.

• All subsequent violations will carry a penalty of $250 per occurrence.

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SSJID outlook for 2015 is good

Shields noted as things stand right now, there will be at least 600,000 acre feet of inflow into New Melones reservoir. In exchange for allowing the Bureau of Reclamation to flood the original Melones Dam built by SSJID and Oakdale Irrigation District in 1925, each water agency splits the first 600,000 acre feet of water that flows in to the reservoir.

For the water year that ended Sept. 30, only 346,000 acre feet flowed into New Melones. That meant the OID and SSSJID were the only ones that took water deliveries. They were able to get by with tight conservation measures and carryover storage.

The reservoir holds 1.1 million acre feet of water.

“At 70 percent of normal we’re fine,” Shields said of snowfall. 

An estimated 68 percent of the water used in cities and on farms each year comes from the Sierra snowpack.

That said Shields made it clear the SSJID is not going to ease up one drop on water conservation.

“It is still bad for the rest of California,” Shields said. “Even if we get 100 percent of precipitation it’s bad for the state as a whole.”

He noted many water districts desperate to keep water flowing to crops and through household taps are already looking to SSJID and OID to sell water in 2015 that they can spare.