That is both good news and bad news from Manteca Public Works Director Mark Houghton’s perspective.
It’s good news because California needs water.
It’s bad news because many people think that because it is raining the drought is over.
Most of California — including the Northern San Joaquin Valley — is still in drought conditions. Houghton noted rainfall for Manteca as one example has been below normal for the past five years.
Houghton said the city’s water conservation worker is still making the rounds and within an hour or so typically finds 30 to 40 people violating water conservation rules who are actually watering lawns during the rain. The city currently isn’t writing citations but they are placing door hangers advising residents there is still a drought and they and breaking the rules.
Overall Houghton is impressed with the collective effort of city residents. Not only was per capita water use at an all-time low in November, but it was 30 percent less than in November of 2013 when Manteca had 3,000 less residents. So far this year water use is down 27 percent compared to the first 11 months of 2013. Manteca’s target is an overall reduction of 28 percent over the base year of 2013.
And as an added bonus, groundwater levels in city wells are now higher than they were a year ago.
Manteca — along with Lathrop and Tracy — relies on water from the Stanislaus River watershed for about half of its water with the rest being pumped from the ground.
The Stanislaus River watershed is performing far below other basins in terms of storage from run-off from snow and rain. The main reservoir in the basin — New Melones — was at 535,561 acre feet of water as of Wednesday or 22 percent of capacity. In a normal water year the 2.4 million acre foot reservoir would have been at 39 percent capacity on Wednesday.
Forecasters are warning California could be headed into a sixth drought year this winter despite the current series of storms.
The city and nearby communities are also facing challenges imposed by an aggressive state proposal to commander Stanislaus River water for fish as well as mandates to balance groundwater pumping.
The stricter water rules have been in place for Manteca residents and businesses for 15 months are as follows:
uNo irrigation is allowed during or within 48 hours following measurable rainfall as defined by storms that generate run-off or puddles.
uNo 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.
uNo 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.
uNo 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.
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