Manteca’s never ending drive to squeeze pennies out of municipal expenses where they can has allowed the city to use 20.11 percent less water today than a decade ago when the city had 65,076 residents or 11,000 less people.
The city used 639 million gallons of water in August of 2007 compared to 532 million gallons of water in August of 2017.
Manteca at the time had required new construction to use new state standards for low-flow toilets and low-flow showerheads. But what drove water use down were two pressing concerns — rising water bills for the Parks & Recreation Department to keep the grass green at parks and complaints from citizens regarding water pressure that often dipped significantly right before dawn and in the hours afterwards as residents prepped for the day.
The city parks are the biggest user of water. Park irrigation starts before midnight when the temperatures cool down with the last section of sprinklers going on before dawn. Exacerbating the situation were residents and businesses that realized water their grass after the heat of the day had dissipated when the sun set and before the sun rose was the best way to use the least amount of water to keep their yards green.
The public works staff came up with a solution.
The city started switching to free standing, shallower wells that taped into non-potable water tables to irrigate a number of parks. Some of the wells were ones that had to be disconnected from the city system — such as one at Lincoln Park — that was too high in things such as nitrates that aren’t good for quality drinking water but are ideal for irrigating grass as it helps fertilize lawn at the same time it is being watered.
It allowed the city to reduce significantly the water needed from drinking wells and the surface water treatment plant to irrigate parks. The elimination of the load provided more water for residential use significantly boosting water pressure.
Non-potable water is less expensive than treated water. That has helped reduced city park irrigation costs. It has also has helped delay the need for new municipal wells and additional water treatment capacity to help keep basic water rates down.
Manteca’s water use was up 15.5 percent last month compared to August 2016. Manteca used 107 million more gallons last month — 532 million gallons — than in August 2016. It reverses a two-year downward trend.
Water use through the first eight months of the current year is at 2,812 million gallons compared to 2,619 million gallons for the same time period last year and 3,571 for the same eight months in 2007.
Manteca has adopted permanent water conservation standards in a bid to address the need to keep water waste down as the city prepares to meet state mandates regarding ground water pumping. Basically in any given year they can’t use more from the underground water basin than is replaced. At the same time, the state has designs on water from the Stanislaus River watershed that supplies surface water to Manteca in a bid to pump fish flows. If that happens, the city’s available water could be reduced by 20 percent.
Also driving the city’s water conservation effort is the fact new water capacity via well or treatment plant cap is expensive. It runs $2 million to $4 million per new well alone. The more people that can be served per well — which means using water more wisely — the less overhead costs the city incurs which in turn helps keep a lid on basic water rates.
The stricter water rules that were adopted for Manteca residents and businesses 28 months ago 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 violation plus applicable fees.
To contact Dennis Wyatt, email email@example.com