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Manteca water use drops 30%
Council considering more conservation measures
Lawn sprinklers water the sidewalk in a north Manteca neighborhood. - photo by HIME ROMERO

Manteca water use dropped 30 percent in April.

“We’re getting close,” noted Public Works Director Mark Houghton of the revised state-mandated for Manteca to reduce water use 32 percent below 2013 levels. 

The precise reductions are based on historic per capita consumption. Modesto, for example, with a higher consumption rate has been ordered to reduce water use by 35 percent.

“April was dry and fairly hot so it was a good effort,” Houghton said. “People are beginning to get the message. The real challenge is going to come when it gets hotter.”

Much of the reduced use is coming from people curtailing watering lawns. Windshield surveys of Manteca shows a growing number of lawns with yellow and brown spots including city parks and landscape maintenance districts. Some city parks such as Spreckels at the corner of Moffat Boulevard and Spreckels Avenue are drier looking than many residential lawns except those that are being allowed to die. That’s because the city is cutting back more on its water use at parks such as Spreckels Park that are not used as much to water  a bit more at places such as Woodward Park, Northgate Park, and Lincoln Park that get extensive community use. In the end, however, the city will reduce its overall water use for grass irrigation by 25 percent — the same businesses and residents were asked to cutback.

The April numbers segue into tonight’s City Council discussion concerning possibly putting more water conservation measures in place.

Proposals before the council during tonight’s 7 o’clock meeting at the Civic Center, 1001 W. Center St., include cutting back to two days a week for watering from the current three days. Lawn watering accounts for roughly 60 percent of Manteca’s water use.

Other proposals involve requiring existing homes being sold to put in place water conserving devices indoors such as low-flow toilets and low-flow shower heads as well as reduce turf area in front yards before they can close escrow, requiring tankless water heaters in new construction, and further reducing water use at the municipal golf course.

The reduction of water use comes at a price. Since July 1 conserving water has cost Manteca over $1 million.

City staff has indicated the water enterprise account has sufficient reserves to withstand declines in revenue for now. They are, however, monitoring the money situation and if revenues fall below required thresholds, measures will need to be taken to address the shortfall with through expenditure reductions or increases in revenues.

Manteca has held the line on water use rates since 2009. The city has been able to avoid the rate increases for water use by introducing efficiencies and encouraging people to use less water which in turn reduced the need for additional wells and treatment of surface water. While per capita water use had been dropping and helped keep costs down the significant increase in conservation efforts of nearly 15 percent may force a rate hike down the line.